December 27, 2009

DB Gingerbread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I love making a yearly gingerbread house. As it was the designated Daring Baker challenge I made changes to my typical gingerbread MO. I tried the recipe that came from Y of Lemonpi because it was less like the recipes I've tried in the past. I liked how sturdy the gingerbread was but found it got very brittle on the second day. This made for some breakage when I was assembling but I did my best to repair and move on. Instead of the little cottage design I normally make, I attempted to copy a house from a photo I found online that had a more complicated roof. I managed it but just barely. I think I need more than once a year practice to improve my technique. I glued the house together with sugar syrup and used the same syrup to form windows. Royal icing, some candy and I was done. I also made a couple of little dog houses and had my son Alex decorate them. This was a great challenge and I can't wait to get time to take a look at all the other Daring Baker houses.

-I used the recipe given by Y of Lemonpi which came from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice A. Ojakangas. Another option is the Spicy Gingerbread Dough recipe chosen by Anna of Very Small Anna. This recipe is available on Anna's blog as well as Good
-To glue the house together and make the windows I followed the directions for Martha Stewart's caramel syrup
-My house pattern was based (loosely) on this Victorian cottage photo from Flickr
-I purchase CK royal icing mix from Candyland Crafts. I need a kid safe icing and in the past have found that powdered egg whites either taste metallic or have a off color. This icing mix solves both problems and works perfectly for me every time.
-Challenge yourself in the new year by becoming a Daring Baker, now no blog needed! Visit the Daring Kitchen for more information. There you can also check out all the other gingerbread goodness made this month by browsing the Daring Baker Blogroll.
-Go here to see my gingerbread house from last year

2009's gingerbread house
Alex's gingerbread dog house, he insisted on colored frosting

My cardboard gingerbread house patterns

December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Caramels (vegan/dairy-free)

At last my Christmas baking and candy making is done! The last batch of cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip) are cooling on the counter as I type. To add something new to this year's line up, I was inspired by an Edible Gifts post on the ultimate vegan sweets blog Bittersweet-- I just had to try my hand at making gingerbread caramels!

After I made the prerequisite batch of my normal vegan caramels for my son Alex, I looked at a few gingerbread variations online and came up with a plan to modify my recipe. I also decided to try adding some toasted walnuts to half the batch, leaving half plain since Alex isn't a walnut fan. This was a halfway good idea...the caramels with walnuts were AWESOME!!! but the plain ones were just good and Alex much prefers his regular caramels. The nut version reminds me of kicked up Wha Guru Chews; which if you've never had are pretty fantastic and highly addictive. I had to add a pack of these to each of my Christmas gift bags to ensure I too many weren't left in the house. Here's the recipe for those interested in giving candy making a try this year.

Gingerbread Caramels (vegan/dairy-free)
A combination of my vegan caramel recipe and the Gingerbread Caramel recipe from Martha
Makes ~60-75 large pieces of candy

2 cups sugar
2 cups soy milk
1 cup margarine (Earth Balance tub is my choice)
1/2 cup corn syrup (Wholesome Sweeteners brand if you can get it)
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts, optional but highly recommended

*Please double check your ingredients to verify that they suit your dietary needs (IE vegan, dairy-free, etc) or the needs of those you are cooking for.

-Line an 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl stir together the spices and salt and set aside. Measure out your nuts to have ready as well.
-Add the sugar, soy milk, margarine, corn syrup and molasses to a large saucepan, 4 quart minimum. You don't want this hot sticky stuff boiling over!
-Bring to a boil stirring often and then continue cooking over medium heat while stirring until the candy reaches 245 degrees F.
-Remove the pan from heat and stir in the spice mixture and vanilla. Stir very well to distribute the spices evenly. Then add the nuts and mix them in.
-Pour into your lined baking pan.
-Allow the caramel to cool completely. With a clean and oiled pair of kitchen scissors, snip the caramel into pieces. Wrap each piece individually with cellophane, waxed or parchment paper.
-Give at least two thirds away or you'll end up eating the whole batch!

December 19, 2009

Vanilla-Bean Sugar Cookies

Just like my trouble replacing the taste of butter in yellow cake, tasty sugar cookies were in the past a troublesome thing to make dairy-free. For me nothing could make up for the lack of real butter in such a simple cookie, but real vanilla beans come to the rescue once again in this Gourmet magazine recipe I adapted. Get baking now if you want these ready in time for Christmas. I've made these several times and giving the dough an extra day or two in the fridge lets the vanilla flavor develop and really pays off.

Dairy-free Vanilla-Bean Sugar Cookies
My dairy-free adaptation of the Gourmet magazine recipe for Vanilla-Bean Sugar Cookies found on Epicurious
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine*
3/4 cup sugar + more to roll in
2 vanilla beans
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

*If you aren't an EB fan and use another margarine you might want to add a pinch of salt. I use EB in the tub and it's always a little heavy on the salt.

-Beat the margarine with 3/4 cup of sugar and the scraped seeds from both vanilla beans until light in color. Adding the vanilla seeds to the creaming process helps spread them evenly throughout the dough.
-Add the egg and vanilla extract to the creamed margarine mixture and beat to combine.
-In a separate bowl, whisk (or sift) together the flour and baking powder. Then add to the creamed mixture in two or three doses beating just until combined.
-Spoon the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap (or parchment paper) and roll into a log. Make the log approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Add another protective wrap of aluminum foil or a second layer of plastic. You don't want any funky flavors sneaking into these cookies from your fridge!
-Chill the dough, ideally for 2-3 days but at least overnight.
-When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
-Take half a log at a time, the Earth Balance margarine softens quickly so it's best to not work with the whole log at once. Roll the log in sugar to coat the outside and then cut 1/4 inch slices.
-Lay the slices on your cookie sheets at least 1 inch apart and bake for 9-11 minutes, until golden brown on the edges.
-Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Yesterday I received my last fall 9 Bean Rows share. New Year's Day will start the winter share and I'm excited to see what it will have. Here's this week's goodies: (clockwise from top right)
red Swiss chard (which was very good last week - I'm growing to love it), kale, baguettes, lots of herbs (rosemary, parsley, oregano and even a sprig of tarragon), yellow potatoes, collards, garlic, red potatoes, apples, salad mix and bok choi
I plan on making a big batch of dairy-free potato pierogies for Christmas Eve, with some extra to freeze, and if I have time in between the rest of the cookie and candy making I'll also whip up a doubled recipe of the Daring Baker Danish Braid to use up some of my apples and feed our post-Christmas house guests.

P.S. Notice the ornament with the cookies? I finally got around to making something with the Michigan-grown heartnut shells from summer '08! My son Alex and I had fun glittering the insides a few weeks back.

December 13, 2009

Happy birthday to me! (Vanilla Bean Cupcakes)

After getting a major dump of snow this week Michigan brought out a perfect snowy and sunny day for my birthday. Per our tradition we went to get a Christmas tree and then headed home to decorate. To refuel us after trudging through the knee-deep snow I baked up a batch of cupcakes. My favorite combination has always been yellow cake and chocolate frosting but dairy-free versions of yellow cake typically leave me disappointed. I solved the problem by using a whole scraped vanilla bean and coconut milk yogurt.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Real vanilla bean and coconut milk yogurt combine to make a very flavorful dairy-free yellow cake substitute.
Makes 12 cupcakes

2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
the seeds from one vanilla bean
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk Yogurt
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon neutral oil (I've been using grape seed lately)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line or grease your cupcake tins.
-Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla bean seeds with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer until thickened and light yellow. Adding the vanilla bean at the beginning ensures that the seeds will be evenly distributed.
-Add the yogurt, oil and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
-In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
-Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture while beating on low until the flour is incorporated.
-Spoon into the cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes (check for doneness with a toothpick).
-Cool and frost*.

*I made the frosting using Earth Balance margarine, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, almond milk and King Arthur Flour's Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa. Sorry but I rarely measure when making powdered sugar frosting and it *was* my birthday after all. The special cocoa is smoother and darker than regular cocoa and I'm really looking forward to trying it in this year's Winter Mint Cookies or maybe some Dairy-free TKOs.

This week's 9 Bean Rows share: (clockwise from top)
Two small pac choi heads, eggs, whole wheat loaf, garlic, red potatoes,
small yellow potatoes, apples, arugula, kale and red Swiss chard
Alex the tree hunter
Our tree, a little scrappy (and scratchy) but you can't beat the $10 price.
Three cheers for the Cedar-Maple City Lions Club!

December 6, 2009

Snowy Sunday

We've finally gotten a load of decent snow! Today my son Alex and I did some crafting, played in the snow, and I finally processed some stashed away quince from my father-in-law's tree.

This week's 9 Bean Rows share: (clockwise from top)
Salad greens, bok choi (I've been perfecting my egg foo young), sourdough loaf,
peppers, garlic, potatoes, lacinato kale, and apples
*Behind this week's share are my homegrown red cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
They survived the light dusting of snow they got before I remembered they
were still out in the garden. I have to come up with plans for those as well this week.
Battered but still valuable quince I cleaned out of the fridge
to make jelly and quince cheese. Damn ugly but the jelly is heavenly!
One of our crafts today was taking Alex's Lego advent calender figures
and turning them into snow globes.
Fritz loves being out in the snow. I think the little snow beard he gets is the cutest thing!

November 29, 2009

Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Porridge (congee-style)

Before diving into making Christmas sweets I needed some detox food to recover from my Thanksgiving indulgences. My mother made a wonderfully simple squash and rice soup for our Black Friday brunch and I couldn't resist playing with the idea when I got home. I used up one of my smaller butternut squash with short grain brown rice. After they cooked together to make a creamy porridge I topped it with green onions, fresh ginger, soy sauce and fried locally-grown shiitake mushrooms. It was savory and comforting and was the perfect stomach healing food I craved. I also tried out a variation with brown sugar and Earth Balance margarine for my son. Alas, he objected to the squash, which is usually a favorite vegetable of him. I thought it was pretty tasty myself but not as appealing as the savory version. Here is what I did:

Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Porridge
Based on this recipe for Yum Yum Brown Rice Congee
Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup short brown rice
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup peeled and diced (1/2 inch dice) butternut squash, other squash or pumpkin
toppings (suggestions listed at the end)

-Add the brown rice, salt and water to a small soup pot. Bring to a boil, stir and then reduce the heat to a strong simmer. Cook covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
-Add in the squash and bring back to a strong simmer. Cook covered for another 30-45 minutes until the squash is tender.
-Top with your desired toppings and serve warm.

Optional toppings:
-sliced green onion, fried shiitake mushrooms, freshly grated ginger, soy sauce, chili oil
-brown sugar and butter (or EB)
-if I had some I would have tried some kim chee and a poached egg or maybe

Another variation with brown sugar and Earth Balance margarine
(real butter or a splash of cream would be even better if you can have them)
This week's 9 Bean Rows share: (clockwise from top)
bok choi, parsley and rosemary, rye bread (my favorite), apples, potatoes, salad greens and kale
*note the cat tail and rear, they were eager to be fed
It's been ages since I posted a shot of Abbie.
She likes to annoy me by sitting on the counter, where she isn't supposed to be, and chewing on the squash stems.

November 27, 2009

DB Cannoli, done dairy-free

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli. My prior experiences with this pastry were that the taste never lived up to the pretty image they presented. However, a chance to try making something new is always welcome and so I dove in hoping for the best. The shells themselves didn't have any dairy ingredients and I made just as the recipe stated. They were time consuming to roll and fry, since I could only roll up four at a time and only fry one or two at a time but it all went relatively well. Can fried dough ever *really* disappoint? The filling is where I dropped the ball.

I decided to try two experiments. Number one, make a typical tofu pudding with silken tofu and melted chocolate. I've been making this pudding since my college days and made with dark chocolate it's always fairly decent. But since my dairy-allergic son isn't a fan of dark chocolate he hasn't liked the tofu pudding I've made in the past. So, I tried making a "Milkless" milk chocolate pudding...big mistake. I used up the last of his leftover Halloween chocolate skulls, which I had ordered from Premium Chocolatiers. They were a lot of fun to watch melt! Along with the melted chocolate, I added a smidge of soy milk, a pinch of salt and splash of vanilla to blend together with a block of silken tofu. Warm it tasted ok but it was too runny to pipe into the cannoli and after it chilled it looked nice enough but had a very harsh soy taste. The pudding did look pretty piped into the cannoli though.

My second experiment was tastier but visually and texturally even a bigger failure. I decided to try and make an almond creme using soaked almonds. I took a chance and left the skins on the almonds knowing that they would make the texture a little rough, but I thought more texture might be good. Then I added a little coconut oil along with powdered sugar and almond extract to make what I hoped would be a ricotta-like, creamy filling. The coconut oil added smoothness to the warm blended mixture. Again my experimenting fell apart when I chilled the creme so that it would be better suited to fill the cannolis. The coconut oil separated out and left tiny fat blobs floating in pureed nuts and liquid. Ah well, it did still taste good.

I've never had a bought cannoli that I loved and although I hoped differently I had a suspicion that it would end up this way. Maybe they just aren't the dessert for me. Thanks to Lisa for the experience, it's always fun to deep fry things!

-The full recipe for cannoli (including what is surely a much tastier filling than mine made with ricotta cheese) can be found HERE at Lisa's blog Parsley, Sage Desserts and Lineups.
-For the recipes Lisa adapted to create the challenge check out these two cookbooks: Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco by Allen Rucker and Michele Scicolone
-Are you curious about how to become a Daring Baker yourself? Visit the Daring Kitchen! There you can also check out all the other cannoli made this month by browsing the Daring Baker Blogroll.

"Milkless" chocolate skulls from Premium Chocolatiers
Die you evil chocolate spawn of Satan!
My finished cannoli, tofu pudding filled (bottom) and almond creme filled (top)

November 24, 2009

This year's pumpkin and squash lineup

My squash and pumpkin pile is growing significantly smaller and soon the rest will get stored out of sight to make room for Christmas decorations. (I'm itching to start playing Christmas music and making gingerbread!) Inspired by this post on the blog Popcorn Homestead, I took a quick shot of the varieties I grew this year to post my thoughts on each.

Long Island Cheese, I fell in love with this variety during the years I lived without enough space to grow pumpkins. A farm stand down the road sold them and I loved their flavor and deep orange-colored flesh. It performed moderately well this year but I only got one really big one. Musque de Provence, I bought this variety because I liked the look of the deep ribs, very Cinderella's carriage I thought. Though they didn't ripen to the tan color expected (probably due to my late start) they produced quite a few exceptionally large pumpkins. It was easily the most prolific pumpkin in the garden this year, pound for pound. When I first picked them after frost killed the plants, the flesh was pale and not terribly flavorful. However, after a few weeks of curing the flesh is now a gorgeous color (the top photo is a cut Musque de Provence) and very tasty. A batch of roasted puree from one of these monsters is waiting in the fridge for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. I'll be planting these again and I can see them replacing the Long Island Cheese in my garden.
Marina di Chioggia, these didn't do well. I only was able to harvest two usable pumpkins and I thought the flesh seemed overly starchy. Plus, mine didn't get the interesting bubbled look.
Bliss, the "frog skin" description coerced me into trying this pumpkin. It produced lots of small fruit but many of them were not mature inside. They did make attractive decorations stacked on top of each other. The less sweet flavor of the flesh has me struggling to find a recipe to make with them that my whole family will like. This Quick Asian-Spiced Kabocha (Winter Squash) from One Frugal Foodie is a recipe I plan on trying.
Waltham Butternut Squash, with all the pumpkin seeds I purchased I hadn't planned on growing squash as well, but my husband surprised me with a heirloom seed collection that included this butternut squash. Well I'm very glad I planted it, the plants produced a ton of squash! A few were large but many of them are the perfect size just for a single meal.

*With my substantial harvest, I've gone through many recipes for soup, muffins, roasted, and bread with squash and pumpkins. Of those I've tried so far this year these two are my favorites:

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls, I made these with maple frosting and soy milk and margarine in place of the milk and butter.

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Bars, A Paula Dean recipe without a pound of butter! These bars are very moist and plenty sweet and rich enough without the frosting. I topped mine with a little powdered sugar instead. I liked them best with two of the eggs swapped out for flaxseed meal and I bet they would be good made vegan with all flax.

**For next year I'd like to add these to my garden:

American Tondo, I saw these at the farmer's market and love the look of them.

Table Gold Acorn Squash, I grew these many years ago and liked them cooked young like patty pan squash as well as mature. I missed having acorn squash to serve stuffed this year.

November 21, 2009

This week's 9 Bean Rows Share

This week's 9 Bean Rows share: (clockwise from top)
kale and parsley,
argula/rocket (I have to get the name of this variety because I really like the taste),
whole wheat bread, radishes, big bag of potatoes,
apples (a little too sweet for fresh eating-I'm thinking pie),
collards and salad greens

It was pretty basic cooking this week though Alex and I managed to eat our way through two more squash. I think I should move the rest of my pile into the garage to store them after I get out Christmas decorations next week. Will they get too cold? I have no idea. We're heading down south for Thanksgiving and so I have to figure out what what I can bring that will taste good chilled and reheated. Or maybe it'll just bring baked goods...

There aren't any pictures of food I cooked this week and I don't really think too many of you want to see the photo of the dead squirrel Fritz dragged home. Instead here's a Lego minifig my son Alex made that I really like. He built the entire body out of little pieces.

November 15, 2009

Another beautiful Indian summer week

This week's 9 Bean Rows box (clockwise from top right):
small collard leaves, kale,
bread (which was really great this week and couldn't make it whole into the shot),
apples (huge and really juicy),
a rocket variety, red potatoes, parsley and rosemary,
mizuna (which I ate Saturday morning with this Warm Miso, Maple and Bacon Dressing),
mixed salad greens, and
a large head of bok choi (which I think I'm going to try in some egg foo young/an Asian omelet-- my plan is to somehow combine these two recipes Shiitake, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Foo Yung and Mushroom Egg Foo Young with Gravy and swap in the bok choi for one of the vegetables.)

We had another week of beautiful weather and I made a serious dent in my pumpkin/squash collection. The huge butternut squash from last week went into a roasted vegetable mix. Then I used it in pasta and with apples in a salad. I also baked off some turban squash and made a batch of vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I thought they were great but my son Alex drove me nuts by loving the raw batter but only eating one of the cooked muffins!?

I attempted a cinnamon cupcake with an apple leather swirl (inspired by this ginger pumpkin cake) but they were overfilled and I shouldn't have let the apple leather stick out. They spilled all over and the leather stuck out too much, back to the drawing board...
Today we stayed in. Alex and I played several games of Jenga Max, which is very fun but maybe a tad to easy to beat. Alex helped make pizza for lunch. He's determined to be super creative with his pizza shapes and has been making balls and rolls. Today he came up with this pizza "Fortune Cookie", it was quite tasty.

November 6, 2009

9 Bean Rows share and the Dog Hill dogs

This week's 9 Bean Rows box and my plans: (clockwise from top right)
salad greens - more cashew/tamari dressing on these
Swiss chard - lots of caramelized onions is how I make this, my least favorite green, edible
bread - my son Alex stole most of the soft middle and John and I are sharing the crust
curly parsley - with apples in a quinoa salad with fennel bulbs from my garden
walnuts - added to the pile for my Christmas nut bowl and some for the above salad
apples - see parsley, plus it has been FAR too long since I made some cupcakes and I need to think of an entry for this month's Iron Cupcake Earth: Apple
garlic - I'm feeling a pot roast urge coming on
radishes - ume plum vinegar, black pepper and honey dressing
fingerling potatoes - pot roast as well
butternut squash - Crap, I already have 10 sitting on my counter and that's not including the pumpkins!! This one isn't in great shape so it has to be used quickly, maybe roasted in cubes and tossed with pine nuts and pasta...or more pumpkin bread.
kale - in bean soup later this week
pak choi - in miso soup

Now that I've gotten my autumn olive jam and leather done for this year, I've moved on to what's left in my garden. I harvested the Late Flat Dutch Cabbage on the left and they're in my crock becoming sauerkraut. Our dog Karmal is making sure there aren't any stray chipmunks that could cause me grief.
Most of my husk cherries are already jam but I keep finding a few strays while cleaning up. Maybe even enough for a torte. I have this recipe saved, it's on the list all the way at the bottom and husk cherries are called their other name, cape gooseberries but the almond/husk cherry combination sounds good so I'd like to give it a try.
Roxy helped consume some of the apples from the many trees on our land.
The criticism of CAFOs is becoming more main stream. If you missed it, last night's Bones episode dealt with factory farming. I'm a fan of the show as well as Kathy Reichs's novels and was happy to see them touch on a topic I care about. If you missed it, you can watch Bones: The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken on Hulu. Do you know where your chicken came from or how it was raised?

November 5, 2009

Smoky Collard Greens (no meat version)

No rain for trick-or-treating, sun peeking out from behind the clouds all week long and bearable temperatures even though we saw a few snowflakes. I'm a happy girl.

So between tests of every pumpkin cake/bread recipe I can find, to use up some of my squash-load from the garden, I made some greens today and thought I'd share my recipe. Now, I have no moral problem with pork and I love when someone else makes a big pot of collard greens with ham hocks. My mouth waters just thinking about driving through South Carolina and finding a really good BBQ joint. But, since I'm the only green lover in my house I've learned to make do with small batches, that means a slice of bacon or this version which has no meat at all. Smoked paprika (pimenton) is one of my most beloved of spices and can give a slice of bacon some competition.

Smoky Collard Greens
Makes ~1 1/2 cups of cooked collards

1 bunch collard greens (~8 leaves)
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Frank's RedHot, optional*

*Note that my bottle is nearly empty, I go through the stuff like my son goes through ketchup. It's killer on buttered (or EBed - Earth Balanced) popcorn.

-Sweat the diced onions in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, the pimenton, a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt until translucent.
-Remove the collard stems, roll and chop the leaves and then wash them well in a lot of water. Do several changes of water for dirty greens.
-When the onions are soft, add the greens, vinegar and a splash or two of water. Cover and let the greens wilt over medium heat. In a minute or two check the greens and give them a stir. Add more water if needed to keep the greens moist, you want some liquid in the pot but not a soupy mess since we aren't cooking these very long. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
-Cook for 20 minutes or until the greens are tender enough for you.
-Taste for seasoning and serve with Frank's RedHot on the side.

Other collard recipes:
Gina Neely's Best Collard Greens
Crock Pot Collards from Mother's Kitchen
Braised Collard Greens from The Kitchn
Veganized Southern-style Collard Greens, with shiitakes

My son Alex was happy to find the milkweed pods are finally ripe.

October 31, 2009

Fall and winter food plans w/ 9 Bean Rows share

October will end in a few hours. We had a monster of a windstorm last night and all our trees were left bare sticks. And this morning was the last outdoor farm market day *sniff* Whether I like it or not, winter is coming.

I'm always an avid canner and I try to use the freezer to store what I can't use right away from my vegetable garden but this year I'm really trying to cover all the bases. I have a freezer that includes not just my usual homemade pasta sauce, stocks and frozen vegetables but also major load of local meat. I spent more time drying herbs for tea and spicing. I have dried pumpkin from my garden, dried apples from our land and a batch of local shiitakes drying as we speak (to replace the tasty but slightly dubious Asian market ones I love). And for the first time I committed to a CSA share for the fall and winter.

Yes, I'm late to the CSA party but I was reluctant to give up the pleasure of market shopping and the freedom to not eat Swiss chard. But the damn good bread and allure of permaculture treats (as well as the H1N1 factor and not wanting to be out and about as much this coming winter) made me want to give 9 Bean Rows a try. Plus, as much as I would have loved to get a hoop house up and running this year on my new garden it just wasn't in the cards. So now I'm all set for the winter with someone else to do the work.

Pictured above is this week's haul: (clockwise from top) fingerling potatoes, French breakfast radishes, bread, chestnuts, onions, apples, carrots, lettuce mix and collards (with a garlic bulb hidden underneath). I roasted half of the chestnuts for a Halloween party last night and I'm nibbling on a bowl of hot ones right now. The onions, radish tops and collards are going in a coconut red curry and the carrots will be roasted with a chicken and some other root vegetables from my garden for two meals later this week. I've been dressing my salads with a cashew-tamari dressing though I might switch to apples and cheddar this week with mustard vinaigrette. The rest of the apples and radishes will be snacked on. Oh and don't bother asking about the bread, my son and husband circle like sharks to snatch it out of the box. Sometimes they leave me an end to eat with olive oil.

My load of beef and pork from Gallagher's Centennial Farm from a few weeks back,
John is seriously addicted to their burgers and I love their arm roasts as pot roast.
See that pile of squash and pumpkins behind the boxes? That's just part of the haul from my garden.

Happy Halloween!

I've been listening to this soundtrack all day, despite constant complaints from
the grumpkid to turn off the "crazy music". He should be thanking me for
not digging out my Magenta costume for this evening.

October 28, 2009

DB French Macaroons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

This is a last minute effort but I'm glad I gave it at least a quick try. Of course I got no feet, the little base that all French macaroons should have, and they didn't puff as much as I would have liked. However the cinnamon in the batch I made went over extremely well with my son Alex. Another day and I *will* try these again...


-Get yourself a copy of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming for this recipe and more.
-Or see the recipe at our host's site, Baking Without Fear
-If you'd like to join in on the fun visit the Daring Kitchen. There you can also check out all the participants by browsing the Daring Baker Blogroll.

In case you're wondering what I've been doing since I clearly wasn't busy perfecting my macaroon technique,
here's my son Alex in his haunted tree Halloween costume.

Since it's relevant, there is a super cute commercial I posted last year that's for my husband's game Chuzzle and it features macaroons! *BTW, Chuzzle for iPhone/iPod Touch will hopefully be out before Christmas for those interested.

October 20, 2009

Popcorn picking for the Leelanau Conservancy

My blogging groove has eluded me all summer so here's an attempt to jump back in. Yesterday we had a fun time picking popcorn for the Leelanau Conservancy. There were several varieties and we got to take a few ears home to cure and pop, including the ear of calico corn pictured to the left. I thought I'd post some more of the pictures from the event.

My vegetable garden is mostly cleaned up. The only things left are the Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and some root vegetables. In the freezer are zucchini, peppers and lots of homemade tomato sauce from the final cleanup. I've started working on the squash and pumpkins we grew this year and have some roasted and in the freezer but most of them are forming a decorative pile on the counter for now. My son Alex and I have been picking apples from the many trees on our property. We've been lucky to find some really nice apples despite the neglected state the trees are in. I canned a batch of sauce yesterday after Alex did all the work cutting up the apples. I also canned 9 quarts! of Concord grape juice from my father-in-law's grapes. As usual, this is a mess but the grapes were super sweet. My parents visited us this past weekend and helped collect and husk the husk cherries/ cape gooseberries. The results are waiting for me in the garage. I think I'll make couple batches of jam and one batch of chutney with them. After the husk cherries are dealt with there are plenty of autumn olive berries to harvest as well.

Oh and did I mention we got a new puppy? His name is Fritz.
He's a 9 week old long-haired Dachshund and he likes corn stalks.
Eat your heart out.
Alex picking popcorn
Shucking the corn
Some of the different varieties from the cobs we took home
Alex with his friends that came to pick corn, they all loved this horse chestnut tree.
Alex brought home 93!! chestnuts. He counted them all. So far we've planted seven on our land.Pumping a drink of water, Alex's friend Phoebe is fond of Fritz :)