Hello there! Just popping in here to say hello and let you know we just got back from an incredible trip to Bavaria with Papa’s family. I also wanted to mention that Kathie has an interview of me up today in her I Eat Local because I Can series. Don’t forget to check out my canning blog, putting by. It’s been pretty quiet over there too since we’ve been traveling but I expect the canning pot will be bubbling on the stove before we know it.
Archive for the 'Cooking' Category
Over the weekend we had a little party because….
And Mr. Soon-to-be-Six decided this year he wanted to have a lego birthday party. So that photo was the front of the invitation with the party details on the back. I’ve been keeping a Pinterest board to keep track of all the great ideas for lego parties on the web. When the kids arrived we had them work on some lego coloring sheets and dot-to-dots I printed from the lego site. I had a few different ones so they could do more than one while the other guests arrived.
After everyone arrived we had lunch. Tristan requested mini hamburgers (sliders) and those tiny hot dogs wrapped in bread (pigs in a blanket). We also had pirate’s booty and mini cheese crackers. I used a plastic green tablecloth from the party store and a runner of bubble wrap painted green to look like lego baseplate. The only other decoration on the table was the giant lego minifigure head. I had been wanting to get one and amazingly I found one at Target the day before the party, on sale even. In the sweets department we had an awesome lego cake that Papa made by making a really big sheet cake and topping it with six cupcakes to look like a giant yellow lego. Candy legos from the store were in a lego pick-a-brick container and we also had lego chocolates we made in a silicone mold.
After lunch we split the kids among three tables and had them start building. I had purchased bags of bulk legos from the lego store. First we asked them to build a house and awarded prizes — series 5 minifigures — to the best house at each table. Then we asked them to build boats and did the same thing with the prizes. After that we had them each build an animal and they got to keep the animal they built.
Then it was time for Happy Birthday and cake! After everyone finished their cake we let them go back to building until their parents arrived to pick them up. As his friends left Tristan gave each of them a favor that consisted of a small lego building set — that I also got on sale — sugar cookies I made to look like legos packaged in a cute lego box, and two chocolate minifigures that Papa made using silicone molds. I found a lego font to use for the tags.
Happy Monday morning friends. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I spent a lot of mine putting by a bushel of apricots. There are a lot of apricots in a bushel, I never realized. Actually, this is the first year we’ve found apricots locally so I must admit I got a little overenthusiastic buying a whole bushel. Next year, a half bushel. It’s that time of year, when the canning pot is constantly bubbling, so if you can’t find me here you can always check over on my canning blog.
Just popping in with a quick note to say hello to those of you who’ve dropped by via Canning Across America. Those lovely folks were kind enough to feature that picture of blueberry butter up there on their site this week. If you want to read more about what I’ve been canning recently, please visit my other blog, Putting By and thanks for visiting!
So 2009 is out the window and I am so glad. It was just a crummy year in the urchin household and from what I gather, a lot of other households too. So, rather than dwell on the yuck, let’s take a look at the good stuff I got accomplished while in the mire. First up, the knitting:
To be honest, I’m not too pleased about the knitting. I intended to knit through EZ’s Knitter’s Almanac and did not get very far. In fact the February Baby Sweater is the only completed project from the book. I’m hoping to change that in 2010. I think there was a lot of starting in 2009, not so much finishing, I’m hoping to improve in 2010. Dare I say that going into 2011 I’d like to have no WIPs in my knitting basket?
The sewing however, required two mosaics so that’s something. Katie alone got about a dozen new outfits made by her mama. That is something that makes me exceedingly happy. I also finished four quilts in 2009. I have a whole bunch of quilt tops ready too so just like the knitting, I need to finish what I start. This may be a theme. I made a lot more of the gifts the urchins give their friends so I would like to continue that trend in 2010. In fact, I’d like to try to get a stash together so I’m not always sewing at the last minute.
And then there’s the food. We ate mostly locally at almost every meal this summer and at many of our meals in the other seasons too. I canned so much — so so much — and looking at those jars makes me so happy. I remember one week in August where I canned something every day. We found a dehydrator on craigslist and expanded our repetoire to include dried food as well as canned and frozen. I canned jam and salsa, whole fruits and sauces, sweet and savory. We had to figure out a new system for storing it all. We’ll be eating well all winter I’m sure. In fact, on one of those stressful days before Christmas I realized I had gumbo in the freezer that I made back in the summer and it was so good.
But 2010, I have big plans for you. Plans that include expanding the garden and the pantry. Plans that include covering all the members of my house in their own quilt. But more on that later, for now I think I’ll just look at what was good in 2009.
It seems I’ve been on a bit of an apron bender. It started with making an apron and mitt set — fabrics are Alexander Henry sweet treats and petiti fours– for Tristan’s friend Mallory’s birthday to go with a baking set — I now buy the rolling pin etc. in a set from IKEA. Before her birthday we asked her what she wanted and she said cake! so a baking set seemed like a good idea. She made Tristan cookies to say thank you, aren’t four-year-olds so cute. He told Mallory that she’s a really good cooker.
Then I decided to make aprons for the urchins and their cousins for our annual family Christmas cookie bake-a-thon. Tristan picked out this Thomas the Train Christmas print sometime in the early Autumn. I’ll admit it was bribe to get him in and out of the fabric store with minimal fussing. I had no idea what I was going to do with it until I started making the aprons. So both boys got Thomas aprons using the same pattern as Mallory’s. For my nephew — who is only eighteen months — I sized it down a bit by reducing the length and the width but keeping the overall shape. For the girls I started with a top shape from a Simplicity pattern — 3949 — and then did my own thing for the waistband and skirt. The Simplicity pattern just had way too many pieces for me. I also changed the neck and waist ties to be more like the toddler apron with an elastic neck and velcro closure on the waist. I’m all about the urchins dressing themselves without frustration.
When Tristan’s best friend decided he wanted to have a chef party I knew he would be getting an apron and baking set too. I decided though that instead of an oven mitt Sam should get a chef hat. After a bit of figuring I made the chef’s hat with a coordinating stripe. The band is adjustable with velcro so it should fit a variety of head sizes. I think it made a pretty cute set.
I think before the end of the holiday season I may just have another apron or two up my sleeve. We’ll see though, I still have a lot to do in the next 18 days.
Whoops! Didn’t mean to miss two weeks of dinners there. We did have local meals both weeks but we ran off to the ocean for some of that time and couldn’t find the energy to document our meals while the sand and surf were calling. This week I made an enormous batch of ratatouille. We got one meal from it and I froze enough for two more meals plus a few lunches — school starts next week — that we’ll enjoy on a cold day this winter. We had crispy lamb meatballs and non-local rice on the side and it made quite a good meal.
- thyme, basil (0 miles)
- lamb (17 miles)
- tomatoes, peppers (30 miles)
- eggplant, zuchinni (92 miles)
- oil, rice (non-local)
It’s been all food, all the time around here recently hasn’t it? I’ve been busy putting by the summer’s bounty for this winter. Last year we ran out of lots of things — raspberry jam and applesauce particularly — before the cold season had really set in and I realized some of the problem was I had no idea how much I canned each year or how much we used either. I knew I needed a system and asked around a bit but most people either don’t have a system or use a journal of one kind or another. Well, rather than putting pencil to paper I decided to keep an online canning record. It’s nothing much at this point but I know some of you — Melissa — are interested in knowing what I’m making and others — my family mostly — are interested in knowing what they should take from my pantry when I’m not looking.
We give jam to our friends every Christmas and they always say how much they enjoy it. And making jam is really easy. We can other things too — salsa, barbecue sauce, pickles, relish…. — but jam is really so simple. It’s something my mother did and something I’ve done since before I was married, before it was back in fashion. If you haven’t ever tried putting by some jam I really encourage you to try it. I have to warn you though, you will never want store-bought jam again.
Our all-local meal this week was herbed lamb patties with veggie pizza on the side. The local ground lamb was combined with garlic and parsley from our CSA, and mint and rosemary from our garden and shaped into patties and then fried in a little non-local oil. The pizza dough was made with local spelt flour and topped with local ricotta, and a sauté of local summer squash, onions, and shitake mushrooms. After the pizza was cooked we added some basil and drizzled a totally non-local reduction of balsamic vinegar over the top. You can see Papa went a little overboard in his reduction artistry.
- basil, mint, rosemary (0 miles)
- lamb (17 miles)
- ricotta (19 miles)
- spelt flour (30 miles)
- garlic, parsley, squash (30 miles)
- shitake mushrooms (78 miles)
I think the most frequent question I get about our CSA share is if we use it all and how we use it all. I seem to be getting the question even more this year so I thought I’d try to share my answers with everyone. The first thing is that when you are in a CSA you start to learn what produce needs to be used quickly and what can languish in the fridge for a little while. For example, in what we got this week we’ll need to use the basil and chard especially quick, before the weekend really. On the other hand, the potatoes, garlic, and onion will be fine in the fridge for a few weeks. Things like the beets, eggplant, and squash fall somewhere in the middle. Knowing how quickly your veggies will be inedible helps you plan your meals accordingly.
When there is an abundance of some things I usually freeze some for use in the winter. We have a separate chest freezer that we use for additional cold storage. Like this week we got a whole bunch of okra. The only way we’ve found that we like okra is in gumbo. We’ve had gumbo every week for the last few weeks and we’ll have it again this week but we have enough okra that I’ll be making extra gumbo to store in the freezer for sometime when I can’t cook. When the tomatoes really start coming in I oven roast them and freeze them and some ingredients I just chop and freeze like fennel, celery, and herbs. My best advice is to freeze these types of ingredients in usable amounts — 1/4 cup for the veggies and a tablespoon or two for the herbs — that way you don’t have to defrost 2 cups of chopped chives to get the little bit you need to garnish your soup.
A lot of recipes, especially older recipes, call for ingredients that are in season at the same time. We’ll be having ratatouille this week because it’s a meal made with eggplant, peppers, onions, squash, garlic, and tomatoes. In fact when I picked up our share this week it just about shouted ratatouille to me. Finding dishes that use a whole bunch of ingredients from a CSA share is actually easier than you might think.
Another quick way to use up some veggies is to sauté up whatever you’re trying to use in some olive oil with onions or shallots if you have them and use it to top pasta, rice, or pizza. We love halved cherry tomatoes with corn, summer squash with red onions, green beans with garlic. This is a great way to use up the odds and ends the day before your next CSA share arrives.
Probably our last resort is to give food away or compost it. I have a neighbor who loves beets. We have yet to prepare them in a way that is palatable to anyone in the house — though we did like them at the solstice dinner — so this weeks beets will probably be a gift to her. She’ll love them and I’ll be happy they don’t go to waste. Sometimes our chard ends up in the compost bin. I really try to avoid this but we just don’t like chard that much. If I’m thinking ahead I chop it, blanch it, and freeze it for use in a lasagna later but often it’s too far gone before I’m ready to deal with it.
So there you go, that’s how we eat through our CSA share each week. Believe it or not we head to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning too. Admittedly, we buy mostly fruit, cheese, and meat on Saturdays but we do get more veggies too. Each week our share is a bit like a puzzle and we just have to figure out which pieces to put together for the best meals all week.