Snowy Yarn Along

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George peered out the window this morning and asked, “Where all my snow go?”  Winter’s brief visit has ended, leaving us a landscape of sodden ground and emerging daffodils.

While we were snowed in for four brief days, I baked – and my voracious mob of children consumed – four loaves of bread, endless desserts, and two 9×13 dishes of oatmeal applesauce cake.  The original gluten-free recipe can be found here, but due the flurry of baking and our inability to get to a grocery, I was forced to rework the recipe around the contents of my pantry.  The resulting changes yielded a moist, chewy, delicious dessert as good or better than the original, so I thought I would share the altered recipe here:

Make-Do Oatmeal Applesauce Snack Cake

In a small sauce pan, combine:

1 C whole milk

1 1/2 C applesauce 

1 heaping C rolled oats (NOT steel-cut)

Cook together on med-low heat, until oats are cooked thoroughly.  Allow to cool to room temp.

While the oat mixture cooks, use a stand mixer with paddle attachment to cream:

1/4 C unsalted butter

1/4 C hazelnut oil (or other mild-flavored oil)

3/4 C sugar (I used natural unrefined sugar)

1/4 C maple syrup

1 C dark brown sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Add 2 large eggs (I used duck eggs), one at a time, and beating thoroughly between each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients:

1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/2 C spelt flour (you can use an additional 1/2 C whole wheat if you don’t have spelt flour)

2 tbsp flaxseed meal

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

pinch of clove

With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in cooled applesauce mixture.  Pour into a greased 9×13 casserole dish, sprinkle with natural sugar.  Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out relatively clean.  Cake will be moist and gooey.  

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In the midst of cabin fever, worked on lots of craft projects.  Between outings in the snow, I accomplished a fair amount of knitting, while the kids went through a ream of construction paper.  The living room was strewn with paper snippets, duct tape, crayons, stickers, and creative energy.  Ruth was cranking out Valentine’s, Bea built a blue paper TARDIS, and Hal and George created a giant stack of doodles.

Sandra’s Slouchy Beret (above) was a fast, easy project – perfect for knitting while watching Dr. Who with the family.  It is made from scraps of yarn, and completed in a few hours.  The beret is currently blocking (a necessary step), and I’ve already cast on another quick-knit.

Sharing with Ginny’s Yarn Along today.  I hope to be back before the weekend with some gardening posts, as we redesign some beds, add perennials, and begin seed starting for the 2014 garden year!!

 


Posted in Changing Seasons, From my kitchen, Knitting | Comments Off

Meyer Lemon

 

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Portland is in the midst of a rare snow storm, and all our weekend plans (derby, derby, speed skating, and more derby) have been canceled.  Instead, we have been playing in the snow and sledding and making snow ice cream.

And baking.  Lots of baking.  Something about the arrival of snow, inability to do garden work, a chilly house…a few days into the cold front, and I’ve done so much baking we’ve run out of butter.  And sugar.

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Meyer lemons are in season right now, – a perfect opportunity to try a new lemon bar recipe.  They were delicious!  (Just a note, the lemon bars are gooey, and the original recipe recommends lining the baking dish in aluminum foil.   I don’t like to bake anything acidic in foil, and used buttered parchment instead.  As you can see, the bars came out easily, and baked perfectly.)

IMG_9182With the leftover seeds, Bea wanted to try out an activity she saw on Pinterest.

IMG_9184 IMG_9185We put the pot in a sunny window and hope they germinate.

IMG_9197Looks like the snow will continue through the night, so Ruth and I are making one of our favorite bread recipes after supper.  That way, we’ll have a hearty breakfast of homemade bread, marmalade, and scrambled eggs to bolster us before we head out to play in the fresh snow.  Who knows how many years it will be before we have the opportunity to build snowmen again?

 


Posted in From my kitchen | 1 Comment

Midwinter Sunshine

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Ruth painted a cheery sun on the card and we sewed a drawstring gift bag to round out the gift, and packaged it up.   It was sent it on its way across the country, where it will bring a fellow Grinnellian some Christmas cheer.

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To bring our own family a bit of sunshine in midwinter, a batch of sunny bright marmalade was in order.  I was planning on plain old orange, but when I managed to get my hands on a bowl full of calamondins this week, I knew they were destined for marmalade perfection.  Calamondins are petite, seedy and extremely sour citrus.  However, jam connoisseurs (like Bea, who absolutely relishes marmalade) consider marmalade made with these little oranges to be the finest around.

Calamondins have a slightly smoky, musky – almost black currant – undertone that lends a subtle complexity to the finished jam.  The peel melts in as it cooks, providing texture and flavor, without any detracting chunkiness or bitterness.  If you are lucky enough to be able to source calamondins, the flavor is well worth the extra effort of seeding and slicing dozens of miniature oranges.  If not, you can substitute satsuma tangerines for sweeter finished product, or Meyer lemons for an extra tart marmalade.  Here is my recipe:

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Calamondin Marmalade for Bea

Calamondins (see substitutions above), halved, seeded, and sliced paper thin, to equal 3 cups of pulp + peel (about 40 fruits)

2 1/4 cups water (or 3/4 cup water for every cup of citrus pulp)

White sugar

Directions:

-In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan, combine pulp and water.  On medium heat, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  (You can do this the night before and refrigerate it.)

-Prep all your canning equipment.  Bring hot water bath canner full of water up to a boil.  Sterilize jars, heat lids and rings.

-Measure pulp.  It should equal 4 cups (give or take).  In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine sugar and pulp in a 1:1 ratio (add 1 cup of white sugar for every cup of pulp).  Bring to a boil, and cook until jelly point (22oF) is reached.  (Alternately, you use the spoon method to determine when the jam is finished.).

-Citrus is high in pectin, so be careful not to overcook, or you will have unpleasant sheets of rubbery pectin in the finished product.  Remove jam from the heat, and stir once a minute for four minutes (this distributes the peel, so it does not all float to the top of each jar).  After four to five minutes, the jam can be jarred up.

-Pour marmalade into hot sterilized jars, add lids and secure rings.  Process 1/2 pints in a hot water bath canner for five minutes.

And to bring a little cheer to your midwinter as we turn back to the sun, a few lines from one of our favorite books of poetry - A Visit To William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard – and its delightful Marmalade Man:

The man in the marmalade hat
bustled through all the rooms,
and calling for dusters and brooms
he trundled the guests from their beds,
badgers and hedgehogs and moles.
Winter is over, my loves, he said.
Come away from your hollows and holes.

 

 

 


Posted in Changing Seasons, From my kitchen, Giving, Knitting, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

December Afternoon

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Knitting a few rows on some Toasty mitts ,

IMG_9031IMG_9040Daily checks on fermenting veggies.  Jalapeno Purple kraut all finished and getting jarred up for gifts.  Plain sauerkraut coming along nicely.  It will be ready to serve with Christmas dinner. (The weight goes back on top when I’m done checking, so all cabbage is submerged below the brine.)

IMG_9024Vying for space in front of the heater vent to thaw frozen fingers and toes,

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Enjoying the ever-rotating display of Christmas decorations the children arrange and rearrange as they play with them.

Back tomorrow with a recipe for the coming Solstice, and some more knitted gifts.


Posted in Advent, From my kitchen, Homemaking, Knitting, Uncategorized | Comments Off

‘Tis the Season

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Merry Christmas!  I’m trying to post a bit for the holidays, as time permits.  We will see if I can keep it up.  My laptop is still broken, so I am borrowing my husband’s late at night after the kids are in bed.   The girls and I spend much of our spare time with speed skating club and the girls’ roller derby (I’m joining the recreational league in January!).  Hal is learning to read and endlessly creating Lego sculptures, and George is full of joy and wonder and 2 yr-old energy.  We are making all sorts of changes in the back yard gardens when the weather permits.  Life is busy and good and we are enjoying slowing down a bit for the holidays.

The last week or so, we have been trying to finish up Christmas presents and school projects.  I was a bit late in potting-up the paperwhites, but hope they will bloom in time for New Year’s Day.  One for us in a newly-found blue dish from the thrift store, and two for gifts.

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I had a little helper bundle up to help me in the chill and sunshine:

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Be back very soon with some requested recipes and more of our Advent season.

Blessings.

 


Posted in Advent, Giving, Nature Table | 2 Comments

Early September in the Garden/ Transitions

Purple "de Milpa" tomatillos.  As tasty as they are beautiful.

Purple “de Milpa” tomatillos. As tasty as they are beautiful.

Well, the photo editor/uploader issues with WordPress haven’t been fixed yet, but I’m going to try and get a few images to upload for this post.  I wish the uploader would cooperate, and I could share photos of all the garden is producing – Sunchokes 10 feet fall, baskets (and bellies) full of “Fall Gold” raspberries, ducks laying pale green eggs every day, broody chickens, yarrow and salvia and dahlias splashing every corner with color…

I love the transition of early September, when we are just beginning to be weary of summer, but not quite ready for the dreariness that Oregon offers the rest of the year.  The plants and bees are frantic to do their work before fall sets in, and the cooler weather and episodes of rain have re-greened every inch of the garden.  The front and backyards are bursting with tomatoes, tomatillos, summer squash, chard, kale, elderberries and ripening quince, winter squash, and apples.

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Runner beans are beginning to dry.  Looking forward to a few pots of soup from 1 teepee's worth of vines.

Runner beans are beginning to dry. Looking forward to a few pots of soup from 1 teepee’s worth of vines.

The difficulties of malfunctioning WordPress haven’t been a bad thing, really.  Taking a break from blogging and my FB page has been a good thing for me – less stress, more free time with the kids.   I have learned to roller skate (never skated as a kid!) and am training with Ruth and Bea for roller derby (they play, I fall a bunch and try to learn a fraction of the skills they have acquired).  I ended up falling at skating class and jacking up my left arm, so typing is slow and one-handed at the moment (another reason to take a break from blogging).  (I am very much looking forward to getting back on skates when the splint comes off in a week or two – I may not be a good skater (yet!) but it is something I can do with my girls, good exercise, and a fantastic way to release a lot of accumulated anxieties, worries, frustrations.)

Bea picking dahlias and lavender, both of which are still producing abundantly

Bea picking dahlias and lavender, both of which are still producing abundantly

Time late at night that I would normally spend blogging or reading other blogs, I am now spending exercising and strength building for derby and working on writing projects.   I really miss reading what other blogging families are doing, and seeing other mom’s beautiful handwork and culinary creations – through them I find so many good knitting patterns, book recommendations, recipes, home-education inspiration.   However,  it is also stressful for me and a lot of feelings of inferiority well up with each blog post I view.  The more I read about lives that run so much more smoothly than my own, and view those carefully chosen images, the more I stress about dust bunnies in every corner of my house, kids with tangled hair, house projects unfinished, and piles of unfolded laundry.  When I take a break from the blogosphere, I feel more centered and enjoy my family more, because I am stressing less.  And with the start of our homeschooling year and having a kindergartener, a 3rd grader and a 5th grader, plus a very active 2 yr-old, I need less stress.

Orange beefsteaks with red cherries in the background.  Near the house, the beds are overrun with red and yellow "Brandywines" and "Mortgage Lifters".  We've been eating "Sun Gold" cherry tomatoes with nearly every meal - so delicious on omelettes or in salads.

Orange beefsteaks with red cherries in the background. Near the house, the beds are overrun with red and yellow “Brandywines” and “Mortgage Lifters”. We’ve been eating “Sun Gold” cherry tomatoes with nearly every meal – so delicious on omelettes or in salads.

So, after sharing this morning’s photos from a few hours in the garden with the kids, I’m not sure when I’ll be back.  I probably won’t be posting regularly for a while, but I will be back now and then to share some of the good things happening in our lives.

Bea picked a handful of lavender for "secret potions"

Bea picked a handful of lavender for “secret potions”

Sweat Meat winter squash vining through the kale

Sweat Meat winter squash vining through the kale

Brandywines with oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and cucumber underneath.  We're getting more big ripe beefsteaks this year than in the last three years combined.

Brandywines with oca (Oxalis tuberosa) and cucumber underneath. We’re getting more big ripe beefsteaks this year than in the last three years combined.

Rows and rows of beautiful beneficial (though inedible) mushrooms spring up in all the paths after it rains.  They breakdown the woodchips and release nutrients into the soil.

Rows and rows of beautiful beneficial (though inedible) mushrooms spring up in all the paths after it rains. They breakdown the woodchips and release nutrients into the soil.

Blessings on you this month as the seasons shift.  I hope September is as energizing for you as it has been thus far for our family.


Posted in BCS Teaching Garden, Changing Seasons, Farming/Gardening, Learning, Locally grown, Outings | 2 Comments

IMG_8413   Despite having taken oodles of photos and having several posts drafted, WordPress is being fickle.  Beyond fickle.  Looks like we might have to reinstall it or some such frustration.  Photos won’t load properly, won’t edit, disappear, load distorted on iPad but not on PCs…it’s a big mess I haven’t got the time to fix at the moment. As soon as things are repaired, I will be back to regular posting. Thanks, Angela


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Pickled

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Do you ever fall in-and-out-of-love with a craft or recipe?   Do your habits and hobbies have a seasonality to them?

When a skill or hobby piques my interest, I tend to research everything on the subject, and fully submerge myself in it.  I get a little obsessed.  And then, sometimes the interest wanes (like making rag rugs).  Or sometimes it becomes cemented in the rhythm of our family life (like baking bread).  I like to knit in the winter, sew in the summer, but bake and garden all year long.

(On a side note, I think this is why project-based homeschooling appeals so much to me.  Being allowed to freely, and thoroughly explore an interest or idea is as important to kids as it is to adults.)

lactofermented shredded ginger carrots.  Recipe from Cultures for Health.  The flavor of the carrots comes through pure and delicious, the bite of ginger is the perfect complement to the saltiness of the brine and tanginess of the lactic acid.

lactofermented shredded ginger carrots. Recipe from Cultures for Health. The flavor of the carrots comes through pure and delicious, the bite of ginger is the perfect complement to the saltiness of the brine and tanginess of the lactic acid.

Right now, the obsession is a return to an old interest - fermentation.  The counter is stacked to the back with jars of veggie pickles bubbling, kombucha, kraut, Indian-spiced cauliflower, carrot-ginger slaw, plums steeping in sugar

lactofermented dill pickles.  These are half-sours, with grape leaves floating on top to keep the pickles crisp.

lactofermented dill pickles. These are half-sours, with grape leaves floating on top to keep the pickles crisp.

When I go out to the garden, my first thought is, “What can I pick to pickle?”  When I need a snack, I straight for a dish of kraut or dilly beans.

The basket of mending, countless unfinished knitting projects, this blog, the novel on the bedside table all sit neglected right now.  I’m up late at night setting up second ferments of kombucha, or shredding some root veggie, or washing out fido jars, or reading books and articles on the science of fermentation.

I suppose there are worse things to be fixated on than making healthy, delicious, vitamin-packed food, right?

WordPress has been wonky, and I’m having trouble uploading photos and editing them.  If WordPress will cooperate, I will be back later in the week!

 


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

From the Fig Tree

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A cascade of very fresh, very ripe figs the kids poured out onto the kitchen table.  They are from a neighbor’s tree.  She doesn’t know the variety (they are actually her next-door neighbors, but a large portion of the immense tree overhangs her driveway, and no one family can consume the vast quantities of fruit.

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The figs are pale green with a pink flesh, and very soft and sweet.  I think they may be “Desert King”, which does quite well in our climate, and typically produces a large good-quality breba crop (we have a young one in our yard, and it has exactly eight nearly-ripe fruit on it).

I’m planning on starting a small (one gallon) batch of fig wine with some this weekend.  The rest we are eating fresh, or on toast with mascarpone.  I have my eye on these quick fig recipes, though.  Numbers 6 and 8 look particularly good.

I’d also like to try Temperate Permaculture’s fig recipe.

If you’re picking figs, wear gloves, so what happened to me doesn’t happen to you.

For all things “fig”, the knowledge bank at Figs4Fun is the place to visit.

Do you have a favorite fig recipe?  A favorite variety?

 

I will be back with more posts over the weekend.  We will be busy with the girls’ Roller Derby practices, birthday parties to attend, Sunday Parkways, and such.  The weather promises to be perfection, so every un-scheduled moment will be spent in the garden.  So much ripening, and so much in bloom, I hope to share pictures of it all.


Posted in Farming/Gardening, From my kitchen, Moderation and Economy, Nature Table, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Elderberry Kombucha

Kombucha going through a second fermentation to produce a fizzy, fruity final drink.

Kombucha going through a second fermentation to produce a fizzy, fruity final drink.

A few folks have asked for the recipe for a recent batch of elderberry kombucha.   There isn’t much of a recipe – it is simply kombucha put through a secondary fermentation with fruit added.  Here is the process:

I am currently brewing my kombucha using the Wild Fermentation group‘s method of 3 black tea bags, 2 green tea, and 1 oolong for each gallon of water.  You can also set up a continuous brew system, which I hope to set up in a crockery dispenser very soon.

Once the kombucha has reached the desired level of tangyness, remove the SCOBY, and reserve a 1/2 cup or so of kombucha to jump-start your next batch.

From here, you have a few choices.  The first option is starting a secondary ferment of your  booch right in the jar, and starting your new batch of kombucha (with SCOBY) in a new vessel.  This is how I have always done it previously – usually with lemon juice and a little brown sugar, or diced strawberries.  Covered and left on the counter for a few days, it will turn into a fizzy, fruity version that my kids find quite superior to plain-old kombucha.

The downside of this is that the entire gallon is one flavor.  This means you are taking quite a risk when experimenting with flavor combinations.  That persimmon-molasses kombucha I thought would turn out so great?  Yeah, well, that was a whole gallon none of my kids would drink.  But there is another option.

A while back, I had pinned a blog post from My Gutsy that featured fruit combinations for secondary fermentation of kombucha.  It was very late at night, and I was skimming whole-foody type blogs and knitting and half-dozing off, and I should have read her post more closely.  She does her second ferment right in the bottle!  Brilliant!  Why hadn’t I ever done this before?  Now, I can try small batches of different flavors, and it is already bottled up and ready to go when I am scrambling to get out the door for homeschool park day or church or what-have-you.

She recommends  re-using kombucha and tea bottles (about 16 oz), adding 1/4 cup fruit juice or puree and filling the rest of the bottle with booch, but also gives ratios for other sizes of glass containers.  I used some chia-drink and iced-tea bottles I had washed out and saved in our basement canning room (I knew they would come to good use someday!).

For some of the bottles, I picked a few blackberries from the yard, crushed them, and added a little orange juice.  For some, I used my old stand-by scaled down to = 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 Tbsp brown sugar.   For the remainder of the bottles, I went with elderberry syrup:

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For each 16 ounce jar, I added 2 Tbsp of elderberry syrup.  Because the syrup already contains quite a bit of sugar, and the elderberries have a strong and distinctive flavor, I thought it might be best to start with 1/2 of Gutsy’s recommended amount of fruit juice.   I was sure to leave a good 2-inches of head-space to prevent breakage, and left it on the counter, tightly sealed, for two days.

The resulting drink is a beautiful magenta color (see top photo), and has just the right amount of sweetness and berry flavor plus fizz.  Of all the flavor combinations we tried, the kids loved the elderberry best (George could be heard shouting, “BOOOOCH!! More  BOOOCH!!” Halfway across Sellwood Park).  So, today when I bottled up another round of kombucha, every jar has an added immune-boosting dose of  elderberry syrup.

A few notes of safety –

1)Raw elderberries contain some cyanide (which cooking removes), and the stems and seeds contain even more.   Please follow my safety guidelines, which can be found here, and do not add raw elderberries to your kombucha.

2)Kombucha is a living food, and helps populate good intestinal flora.  Begin consuming kombucha or any fermented or cultured food in small amounts (a Tbsp or so at a time).  Ease it into your diet in order to avoid digestive upset, gas, etc.)


Posted in From my kitchen, Moderation and Economy | 3 Comments