Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Dinner

As I wrote in my last post, Christmas was not what we had originally intended.  Dinner was wonderful nonetheless.  I was excited to be bringing an entire feast of foods that I had grown and made to the table.

I almost forgot to photograph it, but did get a snapshot just as we started to eat.

It's not the best, but you'll get the idea.  The prime rib was of course from DenBesten farms.  The carrots and green beans were from the garden.  I'm really hoping that all of this snow will melt and I'll be able to harvest the last of my carrots.  The potatoes were Yukon Golds that I grew.  We've almost used all of the yukon golds, but since they're starting to sprout, that is just as well.  They also had bacon that I made earlier in them and some Cabot cheese. 

Dinner was delicious, but would have been better if my parents could have been there.  I was able to get another meal from the prime rib and made stock from the bones for later meals.  Nothing goes to waste here.  Toby even got the carrots and last of the meat from the bones after the stock was made. 

This was the 4th meal for the Dark Days Challenge at the (not so) Urban Hennery.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The weather outside is frightful

It's snowing again.  We have a couple inches on the ground from last week and we're predicted to get about 20 more inches today and tomorrow.  So, have I run to the store?  Nah.  I'm sitting here with bread in the oven, the bones from yesterdays roast in the pot for stock and happiness in my heart.

Yesterday was not what I had expected, but wonderful nonetheless.  We got a call from my parents yesterday morning at about 9:30.  I was thinking it was just to tell us they were on their way.  Instead it was my father calling to say my mother was nauseated and having chest pain.  I'm a cardiac nurse (I haven't worked since Morgan was born) and Hubby is a paramedic.  We're the ones who get called whenever there is a problem.  We told them to call 911 and met them at the hospital.  Thankfully all seems to be ok.  Mom is having a stress test as I write this, but it looks like the whole thing was just some anxiety and stress.

We made the best of it and went home to eat our meal.  My parent's will come over sometime this week for Christmas.  The kids will be thrilled to have the holiday last a little longer and have another day of presents.  We're just happy that Mom is alright.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you had a wonderful day.  Now is the time to reflect over the year and get ready for the new one.

Peace to all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all.  I hope your day is as wonderful as ours. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

First snow of the season

We are having our first snow.  It started yesterday and was predicted to be nothing.  They lied.  Cape Cod is buried and we have about 4 inches with it still coming down.  I'm really not a fan of snow.  My friend Kiwi loves it and wants me to appreciate it too.  While I love having 4 distinct seasons, I am not a big fan of winter and the snow.  Apparently, I need to move.  I will say that it is pretty.

The tomato frames against the garden.

The broccoli giving some texture to the garden in the snow.

Every year I think it would be nice to decorate this with lights.  We've lived here for 9 years and it hasn't happened yet.  Outside decoration doesn't really happen here. 

I'm obsessing about the chickens again.  They are really well protected this year, but still have a coating of snow in their run.  They're refusing to go out.  I forced a few to go out, and even put some goodies in their run, but they won't budge.  I wouldn't care, but their food and water is in the run out of necessity.  I'm sure they'll go out eventually, but I worry anyway.  Yes, I'm probably nuts. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Meal #3 lot of stored veggies from the garden.

I woke this morning to a dusting of snow.  The kids were excited to see even the coating that we got.  The week is supposed to bring flurries most days this week, with no meaningful accumulation.   Right now, I'm really happy with pretty, but not inconvenient.  Tomorrow is the solstice and I'm planning to plant some things to celebrate.  For now, we still have lots of stored veggies from the garden. 

Last night we ate some more of those veggies.  I decided to make a roast in the rotisserie oven.  You will remember the infomercials from 8 or 10 years ago.  Hubby bought me one long ago and it is in sad shape.  The plastic arms that hold the door on have broken.  Hubby had taken it into the fire station once and we're now missing parts as well.  It still works though, and I refuse to throw it away until it completely dies. 

As you can see, the roast was a perfect medium rare.  I never make roasts and when we order our half cow from Den Besten farms, I always account for that.  There are always a few that I allow, but generally even those get turned into jerky.  The sides are the Rio Grande russets from the garden with raw milk from a local farm.  The sugar snap peas were frozen from the garden, along with the beets that were harvested in July. 

It's amusing to set a plate in front of my family and have them ask for more veggies before they even eat.  The garden veggies have that effect on us.  Somehow the store veggies just don't taste quite the same.  These will run out eventually, so I'm planning a trip to the Providence farmers market with some good friends in January.  It will be nice to see all the other lovely things they have as well.   Dark Days meals aren't so tough when your pantry and freezers already hold so many wonderful local things.  You would be hard pressed to find a meal we eat that doesn't have at least something from one of the local farms. 

This post is part of Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions and The Dark Days Challenge at The (not so) Urban Hennery. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Potatoes year in review

This is the first year that I made an effort to grow potatoes for the year.  In the past I've planted grocery store potatoes in pots (failure) and 2 years ago there were seed potatoes bought on a whim (failure).  This year I decided to go all out.  The year started with me buying a ridiculous amount of seed potatoes.  When I realized my error, most of them were given away to other gardening friends.  This is what I ended up with.

All seed potatoes were purchased from Fedco's Moose Tubers.  These were the Rio Grande Russets.  We are big russet lovers at our house and I had high hopes for the potatoes.  I planted 5 pounds and got approximately 40 pounds of potatoes when all was said and done.  The groundhogs did a number on them, so I'm sure I would have gotten significantly more otherwise.  The taste was nice, but not spectacular.  They've also been keeping quite nicely in my 50 degree basement.  My biggest issue with this variety was the size of the potatoes.  Most were quite small.  Since we like our russets baked, that poses a bit of a problem.  There were only a handful big enough to bake.  I'll be looking for another variety next year.

Next up were the Yukon Golds.  These are delicious potatoes.  I planted 2.5 pounds and ended up with about 20 pounds at the end of the summer.  They produced nice sized potatoes with a couple real whoppers.  Being an early potato, they aren't keeping as well as I would like.  Many are starting to sprout, so we've been eating them faster than the others.  I will certainly do these again next year.  Despite being the potato with the smallest yield, they are worth it for the taste.  Hopefully I'll be able to get enough to last until seed planting.

All Blues were the next variety I planted.  I planted 2.5 pounds and ended up with 40 pounds of spuds.   That's a pretty amazing yield.  The tubers were a decent size for the most part, but are longer and knobbier than the rest.  I thought the kids would love the blue color, but it freaked my 6 year old out instead.  The flavor is quite earthy and not really what we enjoy.  Since they really need to be peeled in order to make them slightly less earthy, the knobbiness is a bit of an issue.  In the end, they won't be planted again.

Lastly were the Kennebecs.  This is THE Maine potato.  I planted 5 pounds and got over 50 pounds in return.  The size was all over the place, from tiny to huge.  I've never been a huge fan of the waxy, all purpose potato and was prepared to dislike this one.  Instead, it's one of my favorites.  The flavor is wonderful and truly taste the way I want a potato to taste.  It's keeping pretty well in the basement.  A few have started to sprout in a half hearted way, but I think they'll last the winter. 

A few notes on planting and storage.  All of these potatoes were planted on April 21st.  I planted them in beds amended with aged chicken manure and nothing else.  They were planted about 3 inches deep and then hilled once up to a depth of about 8 inches.  All were harvested in September despite many of them dying back significantly earlier.  A few had been snuck out for us to eat throughout the summer.  They are being stored in cardboard boxes in my basement.  The temp is currently 50 degrees with 60 percent humidity right now.   We are loving having all these potatoes for meals. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pressure canning beans

Last Wednesday I posted a picture of some beans that I had just canned.  Leigh had requested that I post how I did them.  They are so easy it's ridiculous, so here you go.  I use this method for all my dried beans because I can never remember to have them ready when I need them.  It also works for all those beans that have been in your pantry for longer than you want to admit, and are hard as little rocks.  I have way too many of them.

 You start by rinsing and sorting your beans the way you would for any cooking.  Next add 1 slightly rounded 1/2 cup of beans to each pint jar.  Fill with warm (not hot) water and let them sit overnight.

 Next you take a picture of your six year old because she's way too cute and wants to be in the post.

In the morning simmer your lids, start your pressure canner heating and boil a few quarts of water.   Next, drain the soaking water from the beans.  You can rinse them more if you're worried about the cleanliness of your beans.  This is also the point where you can add any seasonings that you think might taste good.  These are pintos and I added 1/4 t granulated garlic and a few turns of black pepper.  Fill the jars with boiling water, wipe and cap.  Then pressure can at 11lbs pressure for 60 minutes.  If you want to do quarts, you would do 1 cup of beans and cook for 75 minutes.

Voila!  You have convenience food.  Since it's freezing out here, I tend to do this in the winter.  All of my beans are depleted, so next on the agenda are red kidney beans.  In my pantry I keep jars of red kidney, white, pinto, black and garbanzo (chick peas) beans.

I'll be linking this post to Simple Lives Thursday.

Edit:  This post has gotten quite popular on Pinterest.  To answer a few questions.
1.  I have used this same formula for many kinds of beans.  Garbanzos, black beans, kidney and pinto beans to name a few.
2.  Feel free to add meats and things if you wish.  This is a processing time that will safely process meat and just about anything else you wish to add.

Thanks for your interest!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dark Days meal #2 Dinner with the kids

Tis the season for craziness.  I had started this challenge ready to take on the world.  Then daily I would think "Oh this meal would be good, but there are 2 items that don't count.".  So, last night I decided to just bite the bullet and make sure that the meal was done and taken care of. 

It's been interesting to define what SOLE means to this challenge.  I'm trying very hard not to bend the rules.  Everybody seems to have different ideas of what exactly will count.  There was a great discussion in the email list last week about this.  To define what I'm doing I'll say that since I am so close to the coast, I'm going to include all of Southern New England and the lower half of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.  I'm sure this will have some tweaks throughout the year.  For instance, when we were on vacation in Virginia, we bought a cured Virginia ham from a tiny little farm.  It isn't local to me at home, but was certainly bought in the spirit of the challenge.  When we eat that, it will probably be included. 

So on to the meal.  Last night Hubby was working at the fire station and it was just the kids and I.  They, being kids wanted something that didn't have too much going on as far as complexity.  My kids will eat a lot of things that other children won't, but they do have their limits.  Last night was all about them.

The components of the meal are:

-Hamburger sans bun from Den Besten farms in Raynham Ma topped with raw milk blue cheese from Great Hill dairy in Marion Ma  The kids did not have the blue cheese. 

-Bread and butter pickles that I made from my garden last summer  It was a particularly good year for pickles and we're running out of them quickly.

-Home fries made from the All Blue potatoes that I grew in my garden.  They were fried up in the lard I rendered from the pig we got at Den Besten.

-Cascadia sugar snap peas from my garden.

It was a yummy, but simple meal.  The burger with the blue cheese and pickles was really amazing.  Hubby is going to be very sad that we ate some of his favorite sugar snaps without him.

This post is part of the Dark Days Challenge at the (not so) Urban Hennery.  The meals from around the country are really neat.  Head on over and check out what's cooking.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making Soap

Last Spring I went to a great class on soapmaking.  It was a fabulous time and my friend Kerry and I decided we needed to do it again.  Kerry has a fabulous candle business and is into all the crazy crunchy things that I am.  We did all of this at her house with a few other friends.  Since Kerry is thinking about teaching and/or selling soaps, she bought a large amount of the tools we needed.

Things got set up.  We were making a soap with oatmeal and honey along with some nice scents that she had.

 This is Stephanie getting ready to make some soap.

 Everything ready to go.  

Starting to show trace.

Pouring soap into some of our makeshift molds.

These were some that I made with orange oil.  I don't do well with scents and actually ended up having a mild allergic reaction to something there.  I'm relatively sure it was one of the other scents we were paying with before we got started.

They all need to sit and harden now.  

The soap we made used coconut oil, organic palm oil, soy oil and olive oil.  The additives for mine were oatmeal and honey and one batch with orange oil added for some scent.  They were done using cold process.  I'm anxious to delve into soap more now.  This summer will be fun as I'm planning to use some of my veggies in place of the water for some of the soaps.  How cool would it be to have soap with some of my cucumbers, melon, tomatoes or carrots?  I can't wait to try it. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


Not only is it 5 degrees out, it's only 57 in my kitchen.  No wonder I'm cold!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Harvest Monday Dec 6, 2010

This week I went and pulled enough carrots to get us through a few weeks.  The fall harvest has been gorgeous.  It's really getting cold here lately and the ground is starting to freeze.  I have a feeling this will be my last harvest for quite a while.  There are still some odds and ends in the ground, but I will most likely leave them there until the next thaw.  I love looking at all the greens that everyone is harvesting and we have a few in the garden.  Unfortunately, my family only eats greens under protest.  It's all about babysteps. 

The rest of the garden has been put to bed for a few weeks, so nothing to report there.  I'm starting to plan for next year and will be adding another raised bed in the last space I have in my side yard.  There is a free planner on the Mother Earth News site that is very easy to use, so I've been playing with that.   The seed catalogs are dribbling in.  I've gotten 2 so far, one from Pinetree and the other from Totally Tomatoes. 

This post is part of Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.  Head on over and see all the wonderful harvests. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gingersnap Cookies

So, you may have noticed that I'm doing a lot of cooking lately.  It does seem to be that time of year.  Today I'm going to lunch at t friend's house and we'll be having a cookie swap as well.  This year I decided to make Gingersnap Cookies.  These are also one of those cookies that I discovered later in life.  My love of all things chocolate has made me miss out on some truly yummy treats.  Because it's a dark cookie, I use at least half whole wheat flour in my dough.  It certainly can take it!

Gingersnap cookies

2 cups flour  (white, whole wheat or a combo)
1 T ground ginger ( or more if you like em spicy)
2 t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
cinnamon sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine the flour and spices in a bowl.  Beat butter and sugar well, add egg and molasses and beat until light.  Slowly add the flour mixture until just blended.  Form into 1 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. 

Bake for 10 minutes. 

I can't wait to see all the yummy cookies at today's swap.  It's good to have friends that are good cooks as well!

This post will also be a part of the Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap at Farmer's Daughter.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The first night of Hannukah

Last night was the first night of Hannukah.  Since Hubby is Jewish and I'm a Christian, we celebrate a lot of holidays.  The kids love it and really enjoy the fact that they get to celebrate two religions.  This year our Hannukah was even better because the meal came in large part from our own garden. 

We had latkes made from potatoes that I grew and eggs from our chickens.  The applesauce was made from apples we picked at the farm down the road from us.  I made the brisket from the half cow we got this summer from a local farm and it was simmered with carrots and onions from our garden.  I had even made beef stock from the bones when we got the cow this summer and canned it up.  The best part was that it was delicious.  There are even leftovers for tonight. 

This post is part of the Dark Days Challenge at the (not so) Urban Hennery and Simple Lives Thursday.