31 August 2010

Can't can.

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The past several years have been a maze of home economics for me. Trial and error...left, right, dead end. Start again, cruise, breeze, then turn to the finish at the end of the year. Once again I find myself turning down an unknown path, hoping to find a way to cruise for a bit as we head into a change of season.

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For the past two years we've been able to harvest, wash, cut, cook and can our lovely little sweet-tart plums. It's been fantastic! We thought we had a family tradition going with Christmas Plum Preserves, enough for the whole family on both sides. Well, this year we hit a wall. I guess we pruned the tree at the wrong time last year so the productivity of the tree was stymied. I hear that weird buzzer sound going off in my head...the two toned one that goes, "bum-merrrrr."

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(sans plums)

Seeing the lack of flowers on our plum tree in the spring, we looked to the savory option. Pickles, okra, peppers, tomatoes. We planned the Patio Garden Experiment to hopefully yield a boat load of tomatoes, then preserve them as sauce or stewed tomatoes. Ambitious, you say? Well, last year we had cucumbers, okra and peppers coming out of our ears with friends unloading them on us, not to mention the CSA box. I was just thinking we would add to the bounty and have enough to make gifts for Christmas with no problem. I was wrong.

First, we had to opt out of the CSA plan for delivery location reasons.

Second, our tomato plants fed us, as well as our summer guests, but will not be bearing enough fruit to pull out the canning supplies.

Third, we have eaten the few generous gifts of vegetables that we've received from others' gardens, but nothing has overflowed into our pickle jars.

Ball Regular Mason Canning Jar 1 Qt., Case of 12

SO, all of that to say, I'm a bit bummed as August comes to a close. I won't be standing like a mad scientist over a hot stove with my microwave cart ready with tools for extracting colorful boiled jars of goodness, and our pantry floor will not be lined with jars of pickles or preserves waiting for the appropriate label and date.

I sigh, yet I smile.
There's always next year!

28 August 2010

Another summer dinner...turkey BLTs with beets & brussels sprouts.

As the summer drags to its end we are seeing the last of the tomatoes in our Patio Garden Experiment. We've definitely been pulling more Roma and Cherry from the compost pile than from any of our potted plants! In the bowl to the left are the sautéed beets with brussels sprouts from our garden. The pretty yellow spaghetti squash in the corner was a volunteer pulled from our side flower bed. You can see the brussels sprout (and broccoli) in that same bed below. Scroll down for the sauté recipe.

Now for the main course... Turkey BLTs on homemade bread! We also had a light salad on the side:  spinach, arugula, tomatoes, snap peas and cucumber. So crisp and fresh!

Ingredients that I used for the sandwich:
slices from an artisan roll, made from the master boule
spicy brown mustard
turkey bacon
a good aged white cheddar or gouda
(any cheese with a bite goes well with the arugula)
juicy, ripe, fresh beefsteak tomatoes from someone's garden
red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

The crispy, chewy bread really held up to the juicy tomato and grease rendered from the bacon.  The cheese stood up as well since it was an aged cheese, balancing out the acidity of the tomato, vinegar and mustard. WOW, this was a great sandwich! My 3 year old daughter even thought so.

Beets & Brussels Sprout Sauté:
Mike washed and trimmed 2 cups brussels sprouts from the garden. I chopped and peeled 1 large beet that I had left in the refrigerator from our juicing veggies. After heating up my Green Pan, I added chopped red onion to some garlic infused olive oil. I had that going a bit (not too long) then added the beets and sprouts. I tossed in more crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a bit of onion powder... flipped it a few times over the course of five minutes, then covered and steamed the vegetables for another few minutes. The vegetables were cooked just to our liking, tender but not soggy (al dente). This dish was so aromatic, and beautiful to watch the fuschia pink get more brilliant with the heat.

Feel free to substitute ingredients and let me know how it goes! 

24 August 2010

Be my guest! Introducing, Laura...

It is always great to compare recipes and share stories with friends. Laura was kind enough to create a post to share her experience with Blackberry Clafoutis. Thanks, Laura!!

* * * * *
I like to cook and try out new recipes. I also want to be healthy and do what I can for the environment. These are my reasons for joining a CSA or community sponsored agriculture group. When I first joined I was living in an apartment so growing my own veggies was not an option. I now have a house with space for a garden, but I don’t have the patience for gardening so I decided to stick with the farm.

Doe Run Farm
My personal favorite is Doe Run Farm. They have a mini-share that is the perfect size and they include fruit in almost every box. Every Tuesday I pick up a box of organic vegetables and fruits that have been freshly picked from the farm. It’s like Christmas every week. I never know what I’ll get because I don’t get a choice; it’s whatever is in season. This means that I have to be creative and try vegetables that I would normally leave on the shelf at the supermarket or even at the farmer’s market, and every now and then this means I find something new that I love.

That’s sort of how I ended up making this clafoutis. It is pronounced kla-foo-TEE, which makes me feel very French. I had seen recipes for all sorts of variations featuring just about any fruit you can imagine – cherry, pear, peach, and so on. I’ve been meaning to try it, but never got around to it. Then we got blackberries in our box.

I like blackberries, but I don’t love them and there was an unfortunate incident with a blackberry cobbler a few years back, so I was looking for something different.  I found a recipe on Baking Bites, a food blog I have been reading for a few years now. I thought I’d give it a shot... It was oh so good and super easy to make! It was custardy, not too sweet, and so pretty. Well, the first day. After that the blackberry juice stained some of the custard grey, but it still tasted good! I had leftovers for breakfast right out of the fridge. I think it’s better warm, but is also pretty good chilled. Enjoy!

Blackberry Clafoutis
12-oz fresh blackberries, about 2 cups

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup + 1 tbsp sugar, divided
1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk (low fat is fine)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425F and lightly grease a 10-inch round baking/tart dish (a deep 9-inch pie plate will work, too).
 Place berries in a single layer at the bottom of the prepared baking dish. 
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla and nutmeg until very smooth. This can also be done in the food processor. Pour mixture on top of berries and sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp sugar.
 Bake for 15 minutes at 425F. Turn oven down to 350F and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until clafoutis is golden brown and a tester (sharp knife) inserted into the center comes out clean.
 Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Serves 8 (supposedly, I think we got 6 servings out of it)

22 August 2010

Birthday Zucchini Muffins

A friend of mine mentioned once that one of his favorite things is zucchini bread. I decided to try something new and made him some zucchini muffins!

They turned out pretty good, cooked evenly in less time than the loaves I usually make, and still moist inside. I hope he likes them.... we threw in a bag of coffee to go with the muffins so hopefully this morning he had a nice little breakfast snack before he tackles cleaning up party central.

Happy Birthday, Bryan!
I modified Paula Deen's Zucchini Bread recipe below, just a bit. I halved it then poured into muffin cups. Half the recipe yields one dozen muffins.

Zucchini Bread

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Prep Time:
10 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
1 hr 0 min
2 loaves
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

21 August 2010

Salon Quality Blow-out at Home!

image: Daily Candy
Thanks, Daily Candy.
Thanks, Julie Dickson of Fox & Boy Salon in NYC.

It really works! I have very thin hair so it takes just a few minutes, but for those with thicker hair I'm sure it will be just as useful. Check out this video on how to blow dry your hair at home, just like the salon does it. 

16 August 2010

Pizza from the Master... Boule, that is.

As much as I love love love the master boule from my favorite bread book, I've discovered that I disagree with the authors on one small point. When using the boule for pizza, I've found that using the dough just after it's risen (and has started to fall a bit) is the best time. The dough doesn't spring back when you roll it out so you can achieve a really nice thin crust. I admit, it is much easier to handle the wet dough if you wait until after it's been chilled, but I'm just saying I like it BEST at room temp. The chilled dough also rises more in the oven, giving you an unpredictable dough:topping ratio.

the pizza work flow: one already in the oven,
one on the peel getting toppings, and one getting rolled out.
The pizza party photographed here occurred when my best buds visited last month. They heard (through another visitor in June) that they should request pizza when they got here...so, pizza they had! I think we made 8 or 9 total. There are oodles more pictures (one pizza with each of the girls) but they were taken with another camera. If I get any of those soon I'll post a follow-up!

asparagus & fontina (Trisha's idea... Great combo!)
One of my favorite toppings is Hormel's Natural Choice uncured hard salami. I can find it down the street at my local grocery store as well as in the SuperT. The flavor is great on the pizza and there are no nitrites or nitrates added. Hey, it feels less guilty that way. I think they have a pepperoni too.

salami with marinara sauce and mozzarella

I also love to make my own sauce with a simple tomato sauce base, italian seasonings, loads of garlic, and onion powder. When I have the chance I experiment with store-bought pasta sauces. Newman's Own Organic was our sauce of choice this weekend. Good basic start.

There is a puttanesca that I found works GREAT for pizza, made by LaFamiglia DelGrosso. Oooooh, this sauce is yu-um and even won some awards! It's just the right consistency, and has a nice brine to it (as Lindamy genius cook friend, pointed out). It plays well with veggies, salami and any type of good pizza cheese. (Image: Supermarketguru on ivillage)  Trader Joe's also makes a great puttanesca.

Sunday lunch

Colorful summer meals are so fun, and so wonderful when made by family. Yesterday's lunch was par for the course, and I was not responsible for ANY of it. Even better!

Linda made the caprese skewers (mozzarella, basil, tomato, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper). Michael grilled the beefalo sliders stuffed with goat cheese (the tomatoes are from his garden). Nennette & Michael made the soy bean & corn salad (with red onion and special Owens house dressing). Nennette made a passion fruit spritzer with lime.

For dessert...

Mike explored the produce section at Publix for our fruit toppings. Linda's bowl pictured above has the fruit on top of vanilla frozen yogurt, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Berries, horned melon, brown turkey figs, and dragon fruit!

Splendid meal, all around. Thanks, everyone!

13 August 2010

Working in the closet

With the recent addition of a second child, we decided that while the kids are little they can share a room. This gave us the third bedroom to use as an office and playroom. So far it's been a wonderful idea and I love being able to work on bills or email while the kids play in the same room. The one casualty, however, was a space for Mommy to paint. I have everything put away, scattered between the garage shelving and office closet shelving. I didn't know that I would be needing any of it this week!

My new (well, temporary) closet studio – complete with TV tray for supplies, folding stool for brushes and cutting mat for my feet. Not sure why I chose the x-acto mat to stand on, maybe just because I ran out of drop cloth? I can't remember because my brain has been a bit foggy for a few days! Just ask Pam (founder/owner/designer extraordinaire of function as one)... our conversations have been filled with, "what's that word? ummmm..." I've been out of my normal routine trying to get some things going for this show. The good news is, she's got great product to showcase for our Booth #101.

12 August 2010

Painting a logo

Working on function as one table cover for Saturday's Tomato Art Festival.

Wow, I can honestly say it's like riding a bike. I haven't had a project like this in quite a while and I'm really enjoying myself! I hope it looks great on the table... 100% cotton duck, pre-laundered to give it that "natural, earthy look." The paint will look distressed too, as if I had stamped it on. I think it will go well with the organic cotton and recycled material Ts that function as one will have in the booth!

09 August 2010

This little tomato went to the festival...

In a town to the east
not very far away
on a weekend day
not far from this day
a festival
devoted to
the spectacular
Red & yellow
black & white
even striped.

Look for booth 101
Organic Ts by Function As One
I'll add some artwork to set a tone
of natural things
sans flesh and bone
The sun will shine
summer's heat will beat down
LOVE, HOPE & PEACE on your chest
I'll be wearing HOPE too
at the Tomato Art Fest.

No, I'm not a poet, but that was fun.
Hope to see you this Saturday at Woodland and 10th!

01 August 2010

Summer Pits

Dressed up a bit for a family visitation, I was sitting very still today as my husband put gas in the car.  I was trying not to move so that I wouldn't break more of a sweat than necessary and mess up my "dressed-up-ness." You see, it was SO hot that even having the windows down felt like a good oven preheat. We thought we might catch a breeze for the kids but it was blowing against the rear of the car instead of into the side, like a nice little breeze should. Thankfully the gas pump didn't take too long to fill'er up.

flickr: Chuck “Caveman” Coker
As we drove off, I somehow took a mental jaunt to hot summer days as a kid. Riding in the van up the Grapevine to visit the relatives on the farm, feeling that strong summer breeze that didn't let you feel the sweat because it was playing a blow dryer on high. I couldn't wait to get to the Central Valley to see the rows of trees. The agricultural landscape meant I was that much closer to spending my days in the pool, eating fresh fruit, being loved-on by my long distance family. Those days are most cherished in my mind and will forever be where I go for safety in my dreams.

Kelly at Make Grow Gather posted about her weekend summer-finding. I left a comment on her blog (below) and found that I wanted to write more about it since I had experienced, just hours earlier, that trip down memory lane myself. It really reminded me of the fruit stand stops on road trips, spitting fruit pits out the window, and driving with my family in the heat of the summer. Thanks for the inspiration, Kelly!

This totally reminded me of summers as a kid! My dad would drive us up to his sister's little farm in Central CA. We'd cruise in our van with the funny windows popped open, just enough to catch the warm breeze and pitch the pits. Many fruit remains and nut shells made it to the dirt banks of 99. I used to wonder if we would see fruit trees growing the next year by the side of the road. Ahhh, summer! -Nicelle