Red Freckles-Designs by Romi

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I’m still here and still creating. Though my time and desire to blog has lessened significantly with my two kidlets who keep me busy, I’m still doing many of the things that inspired me to start a blog originally. Today I baked 4 loaves of bread, made beef bone broth, soup, and wove in the loose yarn from this shawl I finished knitting last night (Red Freckles from Designs by Romi for anyone wondering).

I find myself spending less time sewing than I used to and more time knitting. It’s funny. My patience for knitting was non-existant when I learned as a child. I would get angry and throw my knitting needles down in frustration, declaring that I would never knit again! Since taking it up again as an adult, though, it feels as though knitting has taught me patience. What used to make me throw down my needles and stomp out of the room has become a fixable problem. Will fixing it take more time? Sure. Did I just frog 3 nights worth of work? That has definitely happened. But let’s be real here. I don’t knit to get a finished product out quickly. The shawl posted above I started in June. Knitting has become much more about enjoying the craft, making something beautiful when the rest of my day is messy and sometimes very frustrating, and allowing myself to sit down and rest at the end of the day. It’s perfect for the stage of life I’m in right now.

Oregano oregano oregano!

photo 1Last week one of my beds was being overtaken by oregano. I love the stuff, but I don’t want to sacrifice half a bed’s worth of precious growing space for it. I had to harvest about half of it to make room for beets. Check out that huge bowl of oregano. It weighed in at almost a POUND. ONE POUND of oregano.

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Since there’s only so much oregano one can use at a time in fresh cooking, I had to dry most of it. and it has been so hot here lately that drying went very quickly.

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It’s all ready to be removed from the stems and packed up into mason jars. I already had quite a stash of dried oregano in my pantry, so maybe this will end up being for gifts. What a nice hostess gift some dried oregano would make. Don’t you think?

What I’m planting- Week of June 1-7

Because of our trip, I got a little behind on planting. I didn’t want to start seeds before leaving because no one would be here to water them. And it took me about a week when we got home to get my bearings enough to plant. I was getting discouraged and thinking we’d just have to go without summer squash, winter squash, and green beans this year. Then I remembered that last year we didn’t even convert the backyard to a vegetable garden until Memorial Day weekend. That means I didn’t have anything in the ground until the beginning of June. And we got PLENTY of produce last year. In fact, I just checked my handy dandy spread sheet (more on that later) and I hit 184 lbs of produce from my garden last year. Not bad for a late start.

So on Wednesday, the stars aligned. Little man was at preschool and baby girl FINALLY took a good morning nap. This has been a rarity since returning from our vacation. I got a good chunk of time to work in the garden. Here are the seeds I planted:

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I have grown Trombetta di Albenga (bottom left) for the past 3 years and they are AWESOME. The best zucchini out there. The flesh stays firm even when you sauté it. This squash lends itself well to being diced up and sauteed in butter, garlic and salt. It is seriously good. And very prolific too.

I’ve never grown Cocozelle squash but have bought them at the farmer’s market and really love the nuttiness of this zucchini. I hope it does well! I’ve never grown Dragon’s Tongue bush beans, either. I thought my little man might get a kick out of the beautiful beans and eat more of them. Turnips are one I’ve actually never grown, surprisingly enough. My friend over at East Sac Edible loves to grow them is always bragging about her awesome turnip tops that she uses in her miso soup. So this year I had to give them a try. You might be wondering what that ugly-looking squash is on the upper left. That Hubbard squash is quite the interesting winter squash. It’s not much to look at, but my aunt brought one over that she grew in her garden last Thanksgiving and it was SO yummy. She prepared it simply- steamed and then mushed up with butter. It was one of the best winter squashes I’d ever tried. And since I’ve never seen it at a farmer’s market, I decided to grow some myself!

I also planted 2 kabocha squash plants and 2 sugar pumpkin plants I bought at the farmer’s market. And, in the front yard raised beds I got some beets in the ground. Now if I can get out there to water often enough to get all these seeds to germinate I’ll be set. Fingers crossed.

Garden Fresh Lentil Soup

Yesterday I wrote about how excited I was to find fresh veg to harvest after our vacation. To recap, I harvested a zucchini, one pound of purple potatoes, some celery, 4 carrots, and even pulled up an onion (not very big yet, but it was starting to bulge out!).

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I had a package of Trader Joe’s steamed lentils in the fridge so I decided to make lentil soup. I had 10 minutes to do it before needing to pick up my big kid at preschool. That gave me just enough time to get the soup started before heading out. Making this soup is incredibly easy. Just chop your onion and sauté over medium heat with some olive oil. You can add some chopped garlic here too. I didn’t because I didn’t have any, but I would have. Then add chopped celery. Then carrots and potatoes. Now add enough water to cover all the veg. Next dice up the zucchini and throw it in too. Add a few pinches of dried thyme (maybe you have some dried from your garden!). Then just break up the pre-steamed lentils into the soup pot and bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so (until the carrots and potatoes are cooked through but not mushy). I didn’t add any salt to this soup because I planned to feed it to baby girl for lunch. Instead I just seasoned it at the table. Really, there are no rules to lentil soup. Just use whatever fresh veg you have at your disposal. It’s great and hearty enough for lunch. Maybe with some crusty bread (or English Muffins?). We had ours with a strawberry, boysenberry and kale smoothie.

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When food is fresh from the garden, it really doesn’t need much to be delicious. Baby girl ate her bowl all up like I had never seen her eat before. I guess she missed mama’s homemade food while we were on vacation.

I wonder what will be ready to harvest next!

Returning home after vacation

 

 

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We were lucky enough to spend the last week in Maui. Beautiful beautiful Maui. Even though vacation has taken on a new meaning since our kiddos were born, it was such a treat to get away from our usual responsibilities and enjoy some family time in a gorgeous place.

We went on a glass bottom boat tour. The little man really loved seeing the scuba divers come to the glass with star fish, sea urchins and coral for us to get a closer look.

ImageWe also had a chance to visit the Maui Ocean Center (the aquarium). Little man was obsessed. He got to see lots of fish, sea turtles, sharks, sting rays, and more.

ImageAnd of course we had plenty of time to play at the beach and at the pool too. But alas and alack, all vacations must come to an end. Our flight arrived late last night. At 10:30pm. By the time we picked up our luggage and got home it was 11:15 pm and by the time we got the littles to bed it was 11:45pm. Ouf! You’d think we would have immediately collapsed into bed ourselves, but we hadn’t had a chance to eat much dinner on a plane. At that hour, we wouldn’t have found much open and really didn’t want to go out again anyway.  Our fridge was pretty bare when we left. I even took the opportunity to clean it since it was already so empty!

ImageHmm…some jam, miso paste, beer, whole wheat flour, champagne, and….eggs! I made sure to keep our eggs unwashed before we left so they were fresh and ready to eat upon our return. I had also made a big batch of english muffins a few days before our trip and froze them. So hubby and I enjoyed a late night snack of fresh eggs and homemade english muffins. Not too bad for scrounging.

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I was a little worried about what I was going to feed my kids today, though (you know, other than eggs and english muffins). I didn’t love the idea of having to rush to the grocery store but as you can see our fridge was pretty empty. I must have been jet-lagged because it wasn’t until I went out to feed the chickens this morning that I realized I had lots of vegetables to harvest in my garden! How convenient! So, before getting the littles up, I was able to harvest one zucchini, one pound of purple potatoes, some celery, 4 carrots, and even a few blackberries! Here’s what our fridge looks like now.

ImagePlenty to make a healthy lunch today. And with the split quarter of grass fed beef in our freezer, I will be able to get a great dinner out of what we already have at home too. After eating out for over a week, getting some healthy, homemade food back on our plates is what I’m really craving. Here’s to home!

Maintaining a sourdough starter

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A few months ago I was lucky enough to procure a sourdough starter from a friend. I’ve attempted to make a sourdough starter from scratch before using wild yeast from the air and while my starter definitely got bubbly, the smell was funky and unappealing. I probably just needed to keep at it, but the bread I made with it didn’t rise and I quickly lost motivation to keep feeding it.

When my friend told me she had sourdough starter to share, I was thrilled. This time, though, I wanted to make sure to maintain it properly. She pointed me to the website Viva La Focaccia to read up on sourdough starters. I also like The Fresh Loaf for more sourdough starter information, recipes and tips.

The sourdough starter I received was 100% All-Purpose (AP) flour. From my reading, I learned that if you want to make whole wheat (WW) bread, you should use a whole wheat starter. So after refreshing my AP starter, I used the extra and started converting some of it to a WW starter (and kept some of it . Basically, I mixed AP and WW flour to refresh the starter and increased the amount of WW flour each time I refreshed it over a few days until I reached 100% WW flour. That method seems to have worked, because I’ve been successfully using the WW starter for over a month now to make WW Sourdough English Muffins.

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Since I need my starter to be low maintenance right now and don’t have time to make bread daily, I keep it in the fridge and refresh every week or two. When I need to refresh it or before I want to make bread, I take it out along with my kitchen scale. Refreshing a starter only requires some old starter, flour and water.

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The amounts you want to use are 50 g starter, 50 g flour and 40 g water. If you want to refresh more (or less) starter, just use equal weight flour and 80% of that weight in water. Refreshing is very easy. Just mix all the ingredients together (I like to mix with my hand), wash the container you use to store the starter and put it back in the fridge. To simplify my life the next time I refresh, I like to weigh out 50g of starter and only store that in the fridge. I usually use the extra to make English muffins. We go through a lot of english muffins in our house, so they’re the only thing I have been making on a weekly basis.

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Basic food preservation- drying herbs

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One of the very easiest ways to start saving food that you’ve grown is to dry herbs. In my garden herbs are prolific. I have oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, lemon verbena, tarragon. Of those, I’ve found that the easiest ones to dry for safe keeping are oregano, thyme and rosemary because they’re already fairly dry herbs to begin with and their leaves are small. 

The process for these herbs is extremely simple. Just cut what you want to dry, tie the stems together at the bottom and hang them upside down for a week or two until they’re completely dry and brittle. Then remove the leaves from the stem and store in a clean, dry jar. What could be easier? 

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A few weeks ago, my thyme and oregano were taking over one of my raised beds in the front yard. I needed to make some room for other things to go in but of course would hate for all those herbs to go to waste. So I dried them and replenished my supply from last summer. So simple. And I use oregano daily in my cooking, so it’s a good thing it grows so well here. 

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For basil, your best bet is to cut the leaves in half and dry with a food dehydrator on a very low heat setting. Basil leaves are just so moist that they take a long time to dry and do better with a little extra help from the dehydrator. I haven’t tried parsley but I imagine it would be the same. 

 

Happy preserving!