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Just a blurb…

Oh, the ride we weave. The last few weeks have been all dips and hills, self dug and built. The labor is in the digging and the mounting, but mostly in the digging and yet in the end it is all an accumulation of dirt. Now if instead, we sow seeds and water along with the laborious digging and mounting then we may come away with sweet sustenance. There is always a risk in that what you sow must be properly chosen and timed, watered and pruned. The variety of what there is to sow can be daunting and the investment of soul may appear beyond our means at the time, but the soul has a depth of resources we rarely acknowledge. There is knowledge and acknowledgment and in the knowing of both we ourselves may grow.


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Free Breadcrumbs – Akin to Making Lemonade

Another take away from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal is how simple it is to make your own bread crumbs. We do not buy loafs of bread that often. We do eat a lot of soup and occasionally we get a nice loaf of bread to accompany a soup dinner. We usually choose a rustic Italian. Sometimes we get a very seedy loaf of bread. I have not yet tried using the remains of a seedy loaf for breadcrumbs. Next time the opportunity presents itself I will give it a whirl. Since I have not yet mastered keeping bread fresh over a couple days, my partial loaf is perfectly hard as a rock within the week and great for making breadcrumbs!

First I wrap the rock hard loaf in a kitchen towel. Then I take a wooden mallet to it and release a little pent up aggression, pounding until the loaf no longer resembles a loaf but large chunks of stale bread.

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Then I put half into a high powered blender because I don’t have a food processor. Pulse in batches to get the right consistency. We prefer larger bits of breadcrumb to fine breadcrumbs. After a batch is transformed from inedible bread to breadcrumbs, transfer it to a jar or canister. Put in the next batch and repeat until finished and presto you have free breadcrumbs from something you would normally throw out or feed to the worms.

What kitchen scraps do you reinvent with?


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Scrappy Beginings

Last summer I spent a week in July bundled up in San Francisco. It was much colder in San Francisco than I thought it would be in July. I had one sweatshirt and too few pairs of socks. We stayed at a friend’s home on a hill with a huge back window overlooking the city and beyond to the ocean. My friend appropriately had a cozy rocking chair (one of those gliders women buy to nurse their babies in comfort) right near the large window. In the late afternoons when the fog came rolling in, I would brew a cup of tea, wrap my lower half in a soft blanket and open up An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. The book was food for my soul (it is not explicitly a book addressing spirituality). We were considering leaving Denver, Colorado for the Bay Area of Northern California. The foggy cold with occasional bursts of midday sunshine fit my ambivalent feelings well. I had moved to Colorado eleven years prior to be with my husband. For eight of those eleven years I had been homesick. I was born and raised in Southern California. The opportunity that presented itself seemed like that “one and only chance” that I would have to return to the beauty and warmth in my memories of California. I had come to call Denver my home and had made many wonderful friends. Still the longing to escape what I found to be cold winters for winter warmth and summer beaches rose to the surface. Friends and transplants to Colorado from the East Coast laugh at my idea of cold winters, I know. We jumped in with both feet, as I always do (my husband being pulled in by me). “No regret” is pretty much a policy for me in life. Regret is wasted energy. I am very good at making lemonade. Go ahead! Give me your lemons! This is one of the bigger choices I (we) have made that I actually do regret. Not because I cannot handle all the change and that Northern California is not what I remember California to be like, but because the life my children had in Denver was the life I want for them. The life here is good in many ways. They are at one of the best schools in the state, but even I the education prophet have to concede that there are more important things in life than the scores your school gets. If we were childless, it wouldn’t matter as much. My husband and I could both adapt. Our children have adapted, but I don’t want them to. Our street is not treelined with kids running back and forth from one friend’s house to another. We cannot walk to school or more importantly to play dates. As the season cools and we are finally settled and settling. My heart turns to the therapy of soup and its foundation.

Vegetable stock has become a foundation in my cooking in an attempt to use less meat for environmental and health reasons. Tamar’s book is about using the “ends of the meals that come before them.” Since reading this book, I have been saving bits of carrot, onion (all types), parsley stems, carrot tops, apple cores, celery, yam, potato and squash peelings and vegetables that are just about to go bad (beyond fresh but before rot) in a plastic bag in the freezer (yes the same two emptied, washed and used again).

Now, if you are going to try this you have too know that each batch comes out differently and that you cannot expect consistency in taste. I make Scrappy Stock for environmental reasons and to pinch pennies. You can experiment with what goes in and what goes into the compost over time. We compost so one set of carrot tops is enough for a batch of stock. The rest feed the worms. Avoid bitter greens. Tomatoes change the taste of the stock drastically. Yams can add a profound sweetness.

You want everything you put into the freezer to be washed prior to tossing it in the bag. Washing is hopefully done before you start cutting up produce to cook a meal. I tend to cut out nasty pieces or the roots at the very ends of onions. It is laborious to remove all the dirt and the worms don’t mind the dirt when I toss it into the compost bin.

After a few weeks of freezer collection, I put it all into a tall 11Qt. stock pot. I pour warm water in just to cover, pressing the scraps down as I fill the pot. I put one full bag of vegetable scraps and one full bag of herb scraps and carrot tops in the pot with about seven quarts of water, a half tablespoon of peppercorns, one and a half tablespoons salt, a few cloves of garlic and two bay leaves. This batch yielded six and a half quarts.

Bring the water to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. The longer you simmer the stronger the stock. Strain into bowls through a fine mesh stainer or a coffee filter. The coffee filter gives you clearer broth as a result, but it is much more tedious and time consuming. Toss all the strained gunk into the compost. Once you are happy with the clarity and the broth has cooled, pour into freezer safe jars and freeze.

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Previously, I used gallon size ziplock freezer bags to store the stock. I just switched to the glass freezer jars which I hope to be much more sustainable.

Recently, I heard an article on National Public Radio by Michael Krasny that “forty percent of food produced in the United States goes uneaten.”

Would this reduce your food waste in a manageable way?

 


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Zucchini…need I say more?

What gardener does not have too much zucchini? Even if you plant one zucchini plant for a family of four, you end up with too much zucchini. Even if you give several away, you still have too much zucchini. I have never heard a gardener say, “My zucchini just didn’t produce this year.” That being said, zucchini is great to plant with children or first time gardeners. Successful first time gardeners are more likely to garden again. With an abundance of zucchini every gardener needs a new zucchini recipe.

One of our CouchSurfing friends, Magali, from France made this for our family last week. I have made it twice since. It is simple and tastes like warm pickles. Try it with some of your excess zucchini.

Ingredients:
2 medium Zucchini
1 Lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Take the zucchini and slice into half moon or quarter rounds, depending on the thickness of the zucchs. Heat some olive oil in a cast iron skillet and toss the zucch slices into the pan. Splash a bit of olive oil on top, squeeze the whole lemon over and add some salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium or medium low heat. The zucchini needs to be tossed fairly often, every couple minutes. Cook the zucchini like this for 15-20 minutes until they look like sliced hamburger pickles.

You can enjoy them this way. I kept finishing a serving and adding another to my plate. Or…

I also tried it with a bit of cilantro on top. Good, but a very different taste.

Thanks, Magali! This is a great recipe!


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Our Beloved Granola

We just had some guests staying with us through a community called CouchSurfing.org. Two female educators from the South of France are taking a ten month trip to several different countries around the world to compare and contrast Education and the Arts as Education. While staying with us, Emmanuelle commented on how much she liked my “corn flakes” (her English for cereal). She wanted to watch me make it but we didn’t have time. In honor of Emmanuelle, I will post Our Beloved Granola Recipe.

Four or five years ago I was in search of organic honey or maple syrup sweetened granola. There was nothing to be found in stores. When traveling occasionally we would purchase one of the many organic granola’s that are available, but they are usually cane syrup sweetened to the point of nausea. Today you can find at least one organic granola naturally sweetened that is called Boulder Granola. Since Boulder Granola wasn’t a choice four or five years ago, I found a recipe by Alton Brown for granola. Using organic ingredients I made it and modified it and modified it and modified it some more until I had what I wanted with the taste I wanted. Now, my recipe barely resembles Alton Brown’s recipe. It is a staple in our home. Every two weeks we make a double batch and it usually lasts the whole two weeks. My children have it most mornings with yogurt (plain with a bit of honey), as do I. My husband has it with milk, like a cereal. My son often asks for granola and yogurt for a snack. The recipe below is for a single batch, not double.

My kids like to help me make the granola, but even more then that they like to be pictured on the blog as you can see…

3 cups of Rolled Oats

Sometimes I use five grain rolled cereal instead of rolled oats.

1 cup each Pecans and Walnuts chopped

You can also use really any kind of nuts just make sure they are not roasted or salted already. Walnuts and pecans are the easiest to rough chop. I like easy, especially when I make something every two weeks.

Put the oats, nuts and flax seed into a mixing bowl. I use brown flax seed because I like the nuttier flavor with granola. Now I turn the oven on to 250 degrees or 225 convection in high altitude.

Melt the coconut oil before adding it to the dry ingredients.

After pouring the coconut oil over the dry mixture, I like to add the salt, the maple syrup and then the cinnamon. The salt and cinnamon seem to distribute more evenly when I add them in that order.

Fold all the ingredients together until all the oat flakes are moist.

Grease a baking sheet with some coconut oil and pour the mixture onto the sheet. Spread it out and press it into the baking sheet to get it as thin and compact as possible. This allows for a chunkier granola that our family prefers. Put it into the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (depending upon how crunchy you like it). Once the timer goes off, turn the oven off and leave it in the oven until the oven is completely cooled.

When you remove it from the oven, use a spatula to separate the granola from the baking sheet breaking it into desired size chunks. We keep ours in an easy to open large canister so the kids can get into it themselves. The granola never makes it into the canister without my thieving children snatching two or three chunks off the baking sheet.

Ingredients:
3c Rolled Oats
1c walnuts (chopped)
1c pecans (chopped)
2-3 tbsp flax seed
1 tsp salt
1/4 c coconut oil (melted) and some for greasing baking sheet
1/2 c maple syrup
3 dashes of Cinnamon


Get me some honey, daddy!

The Sweet Life! Our first honey extraction…

 

My husband’s honey bees Rosewatchco.com have been busy as…well you know, as bees over the past year. Here are a few pics of our first honey extraction this September 2013…

These bees spent a few months in Denver, Colorado then much more than a few in San Jose, California taking a holiday in an almond grove for a week, returning to San Jose and finally arriving at our home on the peninsula in Northern California. The honey from some of the frames tasted dramatically different than others. Our family loves to travel and as it turns out, our “pet bees” as my eight year old son calls them (he desperately wants a pet) do well on the move too. We have a wonderful supply of honey that I hope lasts us through the winter (but I doubt it – we like our honey!).


Tomato and Hummus Sandwich

Isn't that BEEEEEAUTIFUL!!!!!

This started out as a way to get rid of my tomato surplus. How many ways can I make a beautiful large Rose Tomato palatable to a five and seven year old? First, I saw a complicated recipe in Cooks Magazine that involved coring out the tomato and stuffing it with various things, including cheese and tapenade, and then baking. I tried the cheese and tapenade and then got lazy and just started coring, cheese stuffing and baking. They loved it! My son really likes tomatoes, but he is not the kind of kid to just bite into a big one like an apple. I know this is not a novel idea; there are other tomato and hummus sandwich recipes out there. But I love this sandwich and now I am running out of even my Fall tomatoes, harvested green and ripening in a brown paper bag. What will I do with no tomatoes for my new favorite sandwich? I am also running out of my homemade pesto that I smear on everything I can think of, including this sandwich. Well, let’s get to it. Let’s make a sandwich….

Serves: ME (Now, this is a half sandwich. I am trying to slim down after my summer chow down.)

Ingredients:
1 piece of good bread toasted (I use California Style Complete Protein Bread from the frozen sprouted bread section of your store)
2 thick beautiful slices of the best tomato you can find (Heirloom are best)
hummus
basil pesto
feta cheese

This is so simple. It is almost embarrassing. Toast the bread. Cut in two at a diagonal. This is an equal opportunity sandwich: what you do to one half you do to the other. Spread hummus on the top of both halves. Spread some pesto on top of the hummus. Place the beautiful slices of garden fresh tomatoes on the pesto. Then crumble feta…on both halves. It will look so:

Then ever so gently fold the sandwich together. Enjoy every bite! And then, I strongly suggest gathering up all the tomato juice, pesto, hummus and cheese that has oozed out onto your plate. With your fingers gather up all that goodness and lick the plate and your fingers clean. It is that kind’a sandwich. If this is not something you can do, then this is not the sandwich for you.

My son does love this sandwich. Although, I leave out the pesto. Then there is more for me. I mean… I think he dislikes pesto. Yeah, that is it. He wouldn’t like pesto even if he tried it.

Well, enjoy! I know I do.


Spinach salad with Strawberry Dressing


I’ll have to admit that this is sort of a no brainer. But I put it together and my five and seven year old liked it so much, I thought it was worth posting. This is a basic Spinach Salad with an awesome dressing.

Serving: 3 salads

Ingredients:
Baby spinach (3 large overflowing handfuls)
a few slices of red onion or 1/4 c diced
3 – 6 nice size strawberries

Dressing:
6 nice size strawberries
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard

Throw all the dressing ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Slice the strawberries length-wise and put in bowls with large handful(s) of baby spinach. Pour dressing over spinach and strawberries. Toss some sliced or diced red onion on top (I prefer diced). The red onion really gives it the right bite. This is a very simple but great tasting way to get some greens in.

For some added protein, add some chopped pecans or walnuts on top.

After posting this, I found this which is similar, but my version is much simpler: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2012/05/strawberry-spinach-salad-with-berry.html


Cilantro and Winter Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

This soup was so ugly I could not bare to feature a picture of it, but it was good! I think it was just the flesh of the particular Acorn squash I used was an odd yellow color. The soup looked like a not so bright yellow mustard, but it was really good! We had leftover Acorn Squash and it needed to be used. Try this with any leftover winter squash; it might look prettier.

Our first snow fell last night and I could go for some right now, but we finished it off pretty quickly. Maybe I will use the Butternut Squash from my garden in the picture below for the next batch.

Maybe I will try Butternut Squash next time for a prettier soup.

Serves: 4 generously
Ingredients:
1/2 a winter squash (I used Acorn)
3 large carrots sliced
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1.5 c water
1 Thai chili pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
4 scallions
sliver of ginger grated
large handful of cilantro

Put the carrots and water in a pan, bring to a boil and simmer until al dente. If the squash is not already cooked do the same with half of a winter squash for 15 – 20 minutes. I am at altitude. At sea level it may only take 10-15 minutes. Scoop the squash out of the skin and put it into a blender along with all the other ingredients except the lime juice (including the water the carrots were cooked in) and blend on high until smooth. Add more water for desired thickness. Pour the soup into a pot and heat it on the stove until boiling, remove from heat, add the lime juice and serve with a pinch of cilantro on top. Enjoy!

*This soup has some kick to it from the thai chili pepper.

10/18/2012 UPDATE:

Okay, I tried this soup again with a butternut squash.

Not any prettier, but still just as good.

 


Chard with Onions and Raisins

This recipe is for a friend, from a friend. A fellow gardening friend, Mia, suggested I cook the chard growing in my garden this way. Another friend of mine Jeanine Kopaska Broek, an urban farmer and co-founder of  The Table  asked me to post some chard recipes.

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 – 40 min
Total time: 20 – 45 min

Ingredients:
one bunch chard (any variety, I like rainbow)
1/2 onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c raisins
salt

Slice the onions as thin or thick as you prefer. If I have more time, I slice the onions thick, heat the oil and put the onions over medium high heat until just soft. Lower the temperature very low and let them sit on a back burner until caramelized (add the chard stalks before they onions are completely caramelized). If I am short on time I slice them thinner and do not take the time to caramelize them. After thoroughly washing the chard, cut the stalk out by cutting in along the rib of the stalk that runs into the leaf. Cut the pointy tip off of the stalks and then slice the bottom halves like you would celery for a soup. Saute the onions in the oil until just soft and then add the chard stalks. Chop the chard leaves up, leaving the excess water (from washing) on them to help them steam. Once the onions are cooked as you like, add the chopped chard on top (turn up the heat to medium low, if the onions have been caramelizing), add the raisins on top, salt and cover. Steam for 3-5 minutes tossing once or twice. Once the greens have wilted but remain green, taste a leaf to see if it is seasoned well and tender. Toss like a salad and serve hot.

*This recipe works with well Kale also.