Monthly Archives: August 2012

Plum pie with leaf lard crust

The other day, my friend brought over a big bag of plums from her tree. I didn’t have time to make jam, and figured that we wouldn’t be able to eat them all fresh before they went bad (even though they were delicious!), so I decided to make a plum pie. It’s actually pretty rare that I make a classic American-style pie, with the top dough and everything. Something about my French mom drilling into my head how much heavier 2 pie crusts are than one. But, I had some pork leaf lard in my fridge that I purchased at the farmer’s market with the intention of making pie dough and wanted to give it a try.
To some, lard in dessert may sound gross. But seriously, give it a try. There’s a reason for the foodie movement behind leaf lard pie dough. 

At the recommendation from a chef friend of mine, I used this recipe from Food and Wine. She suggested I decrease the fat a smidge and add a bit of sugar. So I altered the recipe a teensy bit and used 1/4 cup less butter, and added about a tablespoon of sugar. The result was a flaky and delicious pie crust. I’ll definitely use this recipe again when I make American-style pies. I will say, I don’t think that using lard lends itself well to French tarts. Those are better when made with 100% butter. The lard makes the crust significantly flakier, which is great for American pie, and not so great with tarts. One of these days, I want to try making Chinese egg custard tartlets using an even higher percentage of leaf lard in the crust. Since making this pie, I’ve decided the lard must be the secret to the deliciously flaky and fatty crust in those.

As far as what went into the pie filling itself- some combination of plums, sugar, tapioca and cinnamon. These plums were very juicy, so I had to use quite a bit of tapioca to absorb the juices and make sure the pie didn’t turn into a runny mess. I thought I had used enough sugar, but it ended up being pretty tart and I wished I’d used more. I never really follow a recipe when making American-style pies. I just go with what the particular fruit I’m using needs. Apparently, I should probably add more sugar than I think I need, especially when using fruit with tart skin like plums. I’m always learning!

Homemade fruit leathers

I admittedly have a sweet tooth. I love dessert of all kinds. I know it’s a bit of a confession for someone who fancies themselves a fresh, clean eating foodie, but my concession food of choice if we’re at the movie theater would be sour patch kids. I think it’s the nostalgia from junior high sleep overs combined with loving all things sour. (Seriously, just ask my husband how I make my vinaigrette). Alas and alack, eating sour patch kids on a regular basis is just not going to happen anymore. Enter, homemade fruit leathers. You can whip up your own “gummy candy” with as much or as little sugar as you want. I’ve chosen to make my fruit leathers without any sugar added at all and find them very tasty!
Making fruit leathers is really easy. Choose whatever fruit you have in excess. You can be creative here and combine fruits if you’d like. Peel & cut up the fruit if appropriate. Cook the fruit down in a pot over medium heat. If you still have big chunks in the fruit at this point, you can give it a run in the food processor, but this step is not always necessary. 
Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spread the fruit mixture on top. Put the fruit leathers out in the sun to dry. You can also dry them in your oven if you can get your oven down to 170 degrees or less. Mine doesn’t go that low, so I use the sun. 
Here are some kiwi fruit leathers, starting to dry.

Here it is fully dried. Kiwi looks kind of odd with all the seeds, but I actually really like the crunch. 

Roll the parchment paper up and cut the fruit leathers into strips. They can now be stored in the freezer and taken out 10-15 minutes before you’re ready to enjoy them. 

Below, the same process using blueberries:

New use for used Nespresso capsules?

When I pruned my lavender a little while back, I had many beautiful lavender flowers to decorate my house with. Some I chose to dry for dried lavender bouquets, others I dried for making lavender sachets to give as gifts, and others still I made into fresh flower arrangements. Some ended up being too short to use in my other bouquets, but I (obviously) could not throw them out!

I made myself an espresso and mulled over where they would go. See all those little holes in the top of a used Nespresso capsule? How perfect! I decided to stick my lavender stems in the used Nespresso capsule to hold them upright, and then put them in cleaned out baby food jars. (The one on the end didn’t get a baby food jar because I put most of them away, waiting to be made into candles and I didn’t want to lug them out again). The baby food jar is mostly for show and to help keep the capsule upright. I thought about watering the lavender and using the jar to catch excess water, but I didn’t end up giving the flowers water, and they ended up being fine. They just dried up and continue to look pretty in their Nespresso capsules.

This is obviously not a good way to reuse mass quantities of Nespresso capsules, but I like that it’s creative and pretty. Luckily for us, our area has a Sur La Table that recently partnered with Nespresso, so I can bring my used capsules back to them for recycling.

The epitome of locavore- 1 mile dinner

It’s no secret that I fell in love with the concept of eating locally grown food after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In it she details her family’s journey eating like locavores for a year by shopping at farmer’s markets, growing their own produce, preserving summer produce, raising chickens for eggs and meat, raising turkeys, finding local grainery mills, local wine…etc. The book was eye opening, and I’ve enjoyed re-reading it nearly every year for renewed inspiration. I try to cook seasonally and locally as much as possible and get excited when a meal I prepare is nearly 100% local.
I didn’t expect to do much cooking on Orcas island, much less enjoy a very local meal there. When we arrived at the guest house we were renting, though, I realized that this was really truly a guest house complete with kitchen, dining table and even a table and chairs on the patio (incredible view included). Trevor and I decided we needed to take advantage. The woman we rented the guest house from was incredibly sweet. She pointed out some places nearby that we might like to check out- like the seafood farm less than 500 meters up the road (basically through her backyard). She told us that they had clams, crab, oysters, salmon…oh my! She also said we were free to pick fruit from her plum trees and told us about blackberry bushes just down the road from her house. I was thrilled! Our dinner ingredients would come from less than a 1 mile radius from where we were staying.
After getting settled in, we decided to take the quick walk to the farm to check things out. Note the beautiful views along the walk.
See those bushes to the left of the barn? Those are blackberry bushes.
Getting close!
Nose of the boat, pointing us in the right direction.

When we arrived at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, we asked some questions, found out that they farmed the shellfish and had fresh caught salmon. They also had some zucchini, berries and fresh eggs for sale, because this isn’t just a shellfish farm. There’s actually quite a large area for growing produce plus a big coop with about 30 chickens. They were so friendly and we asked if we could go visit their chickens. We’re a little obsessed right now with less than 2 months until we acquire feathered friends of our own. Little man enjoyed looking at the chickens, and then we left, telling them that we’d surely be back before the weekend was over. 
We confirmed with our friends, who were also attending the wedding, that they were available to come for dinner on Sunday night. So Sunday morning, we went blackberry picking to get enough fruit for a crumble. Little man absolutely loved it and probably ate half the berries we picked. We could barely keep up with all of his requests for “more” (signing, not asking with words quite yet), as soon as he had shoved a blackberry in his mouth. 
Later that afternoon, we headed back to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm to buy some salmon and zucchini.  When we got there, though, I realized that I was going to be short about $6 in the cash I needed to pay for the food. Here is the ridiculous interaction that ensued:
Me: Oh I only have X amount of money. Can I get 2 lbs of salmon instead of 3?
BBSF employee: Oh it’s okay, I’ll just write you an IOU. 
Me: (kind of in shock) Wow, umm, that’s really nice but we’re leaving really early tomorrow morning and wont have time to get to an ATM and bring you the cash before we go. 
BBSF employee: You can just send us a check when you get home. 
Me: (more shock) Are you sure? I mean, that’s so kind, but really?
BBSF employee: Yea, we do it all the time. We’ve never had a problem. 
Me: Okay then. Thank you! Here is the money I do have.
BBSF employee: You can just keep the cash and I’ll write you an IOU for the full amount.
Me: (flabbergasted) You’re really sure about this? 
BBSF employee: Yup, everyone has always sent the money they owe us. It’s really no problem. 
Wow…can you believe such a thing? We had heard rumors that Orcas Island was a very friendly place, but now it was confirmed. It was later confirmed a third time, when our host offered up anything in her kitchen we might need to make dinner (while she was not going to be home). I’m telling you- friendly friendly people on Orcas!
Now onto the food:
Exhibit 1: Zucchini from Buck Bay Shellfish farm. Less than a mile away.
Exhibit 2: Blackberries picked on the way to BBSF (i.e. even closer).
I went with a simple preparation. Cubed up the zucchini, cooked it in butter with salt and pepper. Fresh ingredients don’t need much to be delicious. 
The beginnings of a crumble. I added some plums, also picked on the way to BBSF. A little sugar to counter the tartness of the fruit. I probably could have added a bit more, but oh well.
A very local meal with a not so local beer. But at least it’s local to us, so we’re supporting our local economy. The salmon, I put on a sheet of foil brushed with butter, removed bones, brushed the salmon with butter, added salt, pepper, chives (from host’s garden) and the juice of a lemon. Then a broiled it for about 12 minutes. Again, fresh ingredients speak for themselves. It was delicious if I do say so myself.
Blackberry and plum crumble. Even the flour was local. We found it (along with the sugar) in the bulk bin of a natural food store on the island, which was perfect since we didn’t need much. The butter, I’m not sure about, but it did say “homemade” and the sugar is almost surely not local. So 6 ingredients out of 9 were local – 5 of which came from less than a mile away. In case you’re curious how I make my crumble topping, it’s approximately equal parts butter, sugar and flour. Mix with your hands until you get a crumble texture. Top fruit with crumble and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. 

So that’s my epic tale of locavoring it up on Orcas Island. Thank you to all the friendly people on the island who made it such a memorable trip. We will definitely be back! And if you go, be sure to visit Buck Bay Shellfish Farm. The salmon was AMAZING and next time we’ll surely be trying some crab, clams and oysters.

I’m baaaack!

If you’re a regular follower of seed sowing mama, you may have noticed that I’ve been fairly absent recently. Out of the last 3 weeks, we’ve been traveling for 2 of them. First, we went to Montana for a family reunion and less than a week later we left for Seattle/Orcas island to celebrate the wedding of some very dear friends of ours. I tried to make sure I had some pre-written posts ready to go before we left but ended up with only a few. Needless to say, it’s been slow around here. Hopefully things will pick up on the blogging front now that we’re back!

I’m working on a post about a marvelous and VERY local dinner we enjoyed on Orcas island. But until that’s ready, here are a few pictures taken from the patio of the guest house where we stayed on the island. We can’t wait to go back. Orcas was a beautiful and magical place.

Thank you to our dear friends for introducing it to us and congratulations on your marriage!!

Urban Hoodie- Girly version

Here is a project I finished a few months ago, but never had a chance to post. This is a girly version of the urban hoodie I made for little man when he was a wee 6 month old. I made it for his friend’s 1st birthday. I didn’t get great pictures of it, unfortunately, but I have fabric to make another one like this, so maybe I’ll get better pictures next time. 
I learned so much from sewing the hoodie the first time that I was even happier with how it came out the second time around. I’m sure little man will have a new hoodie for the fall, and maybe it will turn out *even* better!

The pattern for this hoodie is by Heidi & Finn on Etsy.

Chicken dreams

I’ve been dreaming about raising chickens for years now and my dreams are finally about to become a reality! Just 2 months from today, my handsome (and accommodating) hubby and I are taking a backyard chicken raising class at Love Apple Farm in Scotts Valley and will come home with 3 chicks each (actually, we might not take all 6, we’ll see what we decide we can handle).

I’m so excited I could squeal! Or cluck? Bad joke, I apologize. Anyway, we’ve both been combing the internet for coop plans and starting to look for sources of reclaimed wood. We already have some that we received from a freecycler, but we’ll need more as I’d like to use as much reclaimed wood for this project as we can.

I’m sure I’ll update more about this as it gets closer! For now, I will continue to dream of fluffy chicks and fresh eggs. But not for TOO much longer.

We think this coop is particularly awesome (from here). But we’ll see what we end up tackling.