Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Zucchini Parmesan

I switched up the meals a bit this week and having been harvesting more zucchini than I know what to do with right now, I figured I'd better make something for dinner tonight that would use some of it up. So I found this recipe for zucchini parmesan on AllRecipes. This was so easy and fast to make - a perfect meal for a work night for us. This tasted awesome, too! Definitely something I'll make regularly and probably my favorite zucchini dish that I've made over the years. What's not to love, though, with pasta sauce and cheese on top? :) This would be a great main dish for a vegetarian meal, or could even be a great side dish for an italian food buffet or something.

Zucchini Parmesan

2 large zucchini, thinly sliced (I used three... two yellow and one green... from the garden)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (I used half an organic onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced (organic)
1 (16 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (home-canned)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

In a large pot boil the zucchini until tender; drain (I did not do this, I just added my zuke slices to the pan with the EVOO, onion, and garlic and sauteed it until it was tender). Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until the onion is tender.

Combine the zucchini, onion and garlic in a 9x12 inch casserole dish, and mix well. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the mixture and stir well. Top with mozzarella cheese (use more or less depending on your preference).

Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is bubbly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes

Tonight I tried a recipe that I've had saved for at least a year and a half from RecipeZaar for zucchini "crab" cakes. These don't have any crab in them, they're meatless, actually. They get their crab cake taste from the Old Bay seasoning, which is typical of crab cakes and other seafood dishes. These were very good, no complaints from anyone. It was a nice change from the zucchini cakes I've made in the past - just the typical zuke pancakes that lots of people make. This is definitely something we'd eat again. I might actually mix up a batch and freeze them on wax paper so I can just bake them during the off-season.

Zucchini "Crab" Cakes

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (I used yellow and green zukes from my garden)
1 egg, beaten (local, free-range, hormone/antibiotic-free)
2 tablespoons butter, melted (organic)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion (didn't use it b/c I used seasoned breadcrumbs)
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (didn't use it)
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying (didn't use it)

(I started by putting my grated zucchini in a colander over a bowl sprinkled with a little salt to bring out the moisture... I let them sit for about 30 minutes.) In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well. Shape mixture into patties. Dredge in flour. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

(Instead of frying mine, I put them on a sheet pan and sprayed them with a little EVOO spray, and baked in a 400 degree oven. I baked for about 12 minutes, then flipped them over to bake another 15 minutes.)

Brassicas and thyroids... Who knew? Not me!

I've mentioned before that I receive regular newsletters from a local organic farm called Nature's Pace Organics. The newsletters are mostly geared towards their CSA members, but anyone can sign up for them. Anyway, there was some interesting (to me) information in the latest newsletter that I thought I'd share. I had no idea that eating raw Brassica family veggies could be a problem for folks with thyroid issues! So here's the excerpt from the newsletter:

"On that cabbage note, I’d like to quickly touch on a concern some may have with the consumption of too many vegetables in the Brassica genus. Vegetables that belong to this genus include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabagas, turnips and napa cabbage. These are among my favorite veggies not only for their delicious taste (especially the kohlrabi!), but also for the anti-carcinogenic, glucosinolates found within. A word of caution though, these foods, when digested by intestinal bacteria, can release substances called goitrogens that may suppress the thyroid’s ability to function. The thyroid gland regulates body metabolism, body temperature, blood calcium levels, energy, excess fats, hormones, oxygen, weight loss, among others. The level of goitrogens is at its highest when these foods are eaten raw. These goitrogens also show evidence of providing additional protection against cancer, and I tend to feel that if something is raw with its life-giving enzymes the positive will outweigh the negative. However, after a prolonged absence from eating these foods, and quite suddenly eating plenty again, I feel there’s been quite a noticeable change in my body temperature, a change Jacob can feel on me by the mere touch. The variables internally within and externally of the body are numerous, and I would suspect food combination also plays a part in all this, but a noticed correlation that is being expressed here. My family experiences problems with low thyroid functions already (presumably many of yours also, since we all live near the ionizing radiation of the Flint auto industry) which make us especially vulnerable to compounds of this nature. In short, if you have a pre-existing thyroid condition, you may want to avoid eating your brassicas raw. Steaming/boiling these foods decreases the amount of goitrogens considerably. Like everything else with what we eat, listen to your body and what it’s telling you."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A week in review, meal plans, and the week ahead

Its been a busy, productive week. I got lots done in the garden and in the kitchen. We tried a new veggie for us, too - kohlrabi. YUM! It is so good! It tastes kind of like broccoli and cauliflower combined. I'm definitely adding it to my list of veggies to grow next year and I look forward to buying more at the farmers' markets this year. I wonder how it freezes...

I also invested in some new makeup - Origins brand. I figured it is about time I start looking for natural and safer alternatives to the products I use on myself and not just focus on Carson. So I picked up some mascara, eyeliner, pressed powder, and two lip glosses. I'll eventually start replacing my eye shadows, too, but with the prices I've paid for the MAC and Lancome shadows I already have, I just can't throw them away... I've got to get a little more use out of them. The products I've bought so far, I was running low on my old brands, so I needed to replace them one way or the other. So far, I really like the Origins products. The mascara is a little weird since it doesn't harden like the mascaras I've always used... but at the same time, its kind of refreshing to not have stiff lashes.

So on to the markets and kitchen projects...

~ Sunday, Carson and I made a quick trip to the Grand Blanc market. Here's what I got and what I did with it:
* 3 quarts tart cherries (to make cherry pie filling)
* 1 head organic cheddar cauliflower (for roasting on Sunday)
* 1 head organic white cauliflower (for raw eating in my lunches)
* 4 heads fresh garlic (for random uses)
* local, fresh (made just that morning) mozzarella cheese (for caprese salads for my lunches)

~ Thursday, they had a huge farmers' market on the lawn of the Capitol - they do one every July and September and they are always fantastic! It is always hard to control my spending at them, that's for sure! These markets feature vendors from all over Michigan giving out samples of their tasty products. They have several fruit and/or veggie stands, too. Here's what I found:
* fresh, local goat cheese (to use this week in quiche)
* smoked whitefish spread from the Mackinac Straits Fish Company (to spread on crackers as a lunch or snack over the weekend)
* fresh Jamaican Beef Pattie (kind of like a pasty, I took it home and shared it with Kevin)
* half a chicken shawarma sandwich from a local mediterranean restaurant (for lunch that day)
* baklava from the same local mediterranean restaurant (for lunch and dinner dessert that day)
* maple fudge from a local maple farm (for snacking over the weekend)
* peach-apple, blueberry-apple, and strawberry-apple ciders locally produced and using local fruits
* blueberry mustard from the Blueberry Store in South Haven (they said its great on chicken or salmon, so I'm going to try it sometime - otherwise great with pretzels!)
* pineapple salsa from Andy T's in St. Johns (to eat with tortilla chips)
* praline pecan dessert sauce from the Green Barn Llama Farm in Dimondale (to put over ice cream or cheesecake or brownies or anything, really... it is soooo divinely good! I want to try making some myself sometime!)
* Toe Jam from Wee Bee Jammin' in Manistee
* 2 kohlrabi (ate it on Saturday)
* 6 ears early sweet corn (ate it on Saturday)

This picture is just from one of my garden harvests this past week... I had two others just as large. Here's what I accomplished in terms of preserving the harvest and garden work this past week:
~ finished weeding the garden
~ tore out a few of the broccoli plants (half of them seem like they're done and half of them are still getting side shoots, so I tore out the ones that look done) and planted another round of yellow zucchini (I'm loving all of my succession plantings this year!)
~ tied up leaves on cauliflower plants (I totally forgot I had to do this once the heads started forming - but was reminded by one of the local organic farmers at the GB market - so hopefully we'll have lots of cauliflower coming in during the next couple weeks!)
~ twisted some of my cabbage plants to slow their growth so I don't have 14 heads of cabbage coming in all at once!
~ made and canned cherry pie filling
~ dehydrated some yellow zucchini (I've heard this is a great veggie to dry, that it tastes great re-hydrated... I plan to use them to add to soups mostly, though)
~ did some soil-testing in different areas of our orchard... our local nursery has peach trees in right now and I think we're going to get one or two... as well as a couple blueberry bushes (which need acidic soil, so they were the original need for the soil testing)
~ froze yellow zucchini slices (1-gallon bag total)
~ blanched and froze beans (1 1/2 1-gallon bags total)

As for this week, we've got a few things going on. We're going to my BFF Jaime's dad's house today for Jaime's and her husband Jeff's going away party. They're moving to Phoenix, Arizona in the next couple of weeks. We're going to miss them terribly!! But it'll be great for them to move out there. And hopefully we're able to visit them! And I actually have to work this Friday to go to an all-day meeting in Windsor. I'm going to try to take Thursday off as my flex day instead, though... we'll just have to see how busy I am whether I can take it or not... and I'm afraid this week will be very busy for me at work.

Sunday ~ We'll be at Jaime's dad's house on Lobdell Lake for the day for Jaime's and Jeff's going away party.
Meatless Monday ~ zucchini "crab" cakes, steamed beans from the garden, oatmeal apple butter bars
Tuesday ~ grilled chicken marinated in italian dressing (make extra for Thursday), stuffed zucchini We went to the ski show and since we hadn't really planned on it, we just stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings to get take-out to eat at the show.
Wednesday ~ crustless quiche with green beans, zucchini, and goat cheese zucchini parmesan, garlic toast
Thursday ~ cavatappi pasta with grilled chicken (from Tuesday), roasted zucchini, roasted cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, parm-reggiano cheese, lemon juice, and EVOO.
Friday ~ I'll be in Windsor all day, so something easy. I might try a white bean and chicken chili in the crockpot.
Saturday ~ We'll be making a trip to Grand Rapids to visit Kevin's grandparents. Not quite sure on timing of everything yet, so I'm not sure where we'll be when it comes time to eat. If we're home, we'll probably just have penne pasta with home-canned meat sauce, garlic bread from the freezer, and steamed beans from the garden... but I have a feeling we'll probably be on the road.

This week, I'll mostly just be focused on the garden... keeping up with the weeding and harvesting. I'll be freezing more beans and zucchini, dehydrating zucchini, and eating as much fresh as we can. I'd like to try making zucchini yeast rolls, but that will only happen if I end up having a day off of work.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oatmeal Apple Butter Bars

I tried a recipe from RecipeZaar for Oatmeal Apple Butter Bars. I wanted to find a way to use up some more of the apple butter I canned last year and these had good ratings and sounded tasty. They are very good. Very crumbly, but very good. I love the oats in them, though Kevin didn't. Carson liked them quite a bit, too.

Oatmeal Apple Butter Bars

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
1 cup apple butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add butter and beat with electric mixer on low until mixture is crumbly. Pat half of the mixture, about 2 cups into baking pan. Spread apple butter evenly over crumb layer. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over apple butter and press down gently. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool completely. Cut into 16 bars.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Herbed Baked Eggs

I tried a recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook this week for Herbed Baked Eggs. I saw the recipe on the Barefoot Bloggers site and thought it looked tasty and easy. It totally was! These were so simple to make and so fast! A perfect work-night meal for us. They tasted awesome, too. All three of us loved them! These will definitely be making a regular appearance in our menus. I did have to make a couple slight modifications with the herbs. Kevin mowed down some of my herbs by mistake and I couldn't find thyme or rosemary at the store, so I used dried thyme and rosemary, but used fresh parsley. It worked out great still. I also didn't have gratin dishes, so I used some small/individual size tart/quiche pans and made three instead of two - using two eggs in each. Again, it was perfect!

Herbed Baked Eggs

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
6 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving

Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.

Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups (you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.)

Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.

Cherry Pie Filling

Guess what I found at the Grand Blanc farmers' market on Sunday?? Tart cherries!! Woohoo!! :) I washed and pitted them on Sunday night after Carson went to bed, then I made and canned a batch of cherry pie filling using a USDA recipe on Monday evening. I made a double batch of the recipe below and ended up with 6 pints and 1 half-pint of filling. I tasted it as I was filling the jars and the cherries were a little tart-tasting still, but I think they'll probably sweeten up a little as they sit in the sugar-gel and if not, I'll just add a little sugar when I break open a jar. Otherwise, they tasted great, though! I'm excited to have this in the pantry now - I'll have to make turnovers or something sometime soon... though I think I might pick up some more fresh tart cherries and try making a cherry pie with fresh cherries if I can find them still... we'll see what I find and how much time I have, though. I'll update with a picture later on after I upload it.

Cherry Pie Filling

For every 1-quart of canned filling, you will need:
3 1/3 cups fresh or thawed sour cherries (I used fresh)
1 cup Granulated sugar (I used free-trade, organic)
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Clear Jel
1 1/3 cups cold water
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
6 drops red food coloring (optional)

Select fresh, very ripe, and firm cherries. Unsweetened frozen cherries may be used. If sugar has been added, rinse it off while the fruit is still frozen.

Rinse and pit fresh cherries, and hold in cold water. To prevent stem end browning, use ascorbic acid solution (I didn't do this, but probably should have).

For fresh fruit, place 6 cups at a time in 1 gallon boiling water. Boil each batch 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. Drain but keep heated fruit in a covered bowl or pot.

Combine sugar and Clear Jel in a large saucepan and add water. If desired, add cinnamon, almond extract, and food coloring (I added them all). Stir mixture and cook over medium high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Fold in drained cherries immediately and fill jars with mixture without delay, leaving 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A week in review, meal plans, and the week ahead

This past week, I hit up a few farmers' markets, but I didn't buy as much as I normally do. I didn't really need to since my garden is doing so well and I know I'll be bombarded with lots of my own fresh veggies soon. I'm getting lots of zucchini coming in right now and the beans are about to start, too. Anyway, here's a run-down of where I went and what I found:

~ On Sunday, my mom, Carson and I went into Grand Blanc to check out their market. Here's what I bought and what I did with it:
* 1 quart Hedelfingen sweet cherries from the orchard in Romeo (which I ate for snacks and with my lunches all week)
* some yummy, local Zingermann's garlic-chive cow's milk cheese (which I ate on crackers for several lunches last week and will finish up with lunches this week)
* 1 bunch organic green onions (which I mixed into our dinner on Wednesday and the potato wedges on Thursday last week)
* 2 dozen local, free-range, organically-raised eggs (which I've used in baking and will use in the next week or two)

~ On Wednesday, I stopped by the Allen Street market in the afternoon. Here's what I bought and what I did with it:
* pine nuts and walnuts from the East Lansing Food Co-Op (to use in pesto)
* 1 bunch organic parsley since my early stuff has bolted and my late planting isn't ready yet (which I've chopped up in the food processor and frozen in ice cubes with a little water)
* 1 bag organic arugula (to mix into salads and to make a batch of pesto)* 1 huge head organic cauliflower (to roast)
* 1 bouquet fresh-cut flowers (which I gave to my MIL when I picked up Carson)

Here's what I accomplished this past week in terms of food preservation and garden activities:

~ dried chives, enough to last me till next summer
~ thoroughly weeded three-quarters of the garden (I'll finish the rest up this morning)
~ harvested the remaining broccoli heads and shoots - used some in our meals last week and then blanched and froze four heads of broccoli... and I think the broccoli is now done for the season
~ chopped up parsley and froze with a little water in ice cube trays (now in a freezer container) to add to soups and other dishes this fall/winter)
~ used some of the basil from my garden to make a batch of basil-arugula-pine nut-walnut pesto, which is now frozen in cubes and stored in a freezer container

And now on to the meals for the week...

Sunday ~ grilled t-bone sirloin steak, grilled baked potatoes in foil, green beans from the freezer, roasted cheddar and white cauliflower
Meatless Monday ~ herbed baked eggs, organic whole wheat toast with home-canned raspberry jam
Tuesday ~ We may end up going to the Silver Lake Ski Club ski show, which if we do, we'll just do a picnic dinner. If we don't, then we'll have chicken souvlaki (made just like the pork souvlaki I made a few weeks back), grilled green and yellow zucchini from the garden, roasted cauliflower from the farmers market We ate at my parents' house
Wednesday ~ another meatless meal... zucchini casserole using leftover roasted cauliflower, plus green and yellow zucchini, my first yellow bell pepper, some baby carrots, and broccoli (frozen) all of which are from our garden; biscuits from the freezer with raspberry jam
Thursday ~ chicken souvlaki if we didn't have it on Tuesday, otherwise TBD
Friday ~ TBD... but possibly green bean stew if I have enough green beans and if I've gotten in touch with Jaime's Aunt Pati to get her recipe
Saturday ~ TBD... if the weather is good, we'd like to go to Owosso to check out the train festival... or maybe go up to Mt Pleasant for the Orange County Choppers bike unveil. So we'll see. Maybe we'll do both, maybe we'll do neither. We'll figure it out and I'll update later in the week with our menu. Kevin and my dad worked on my sister's car all day. My parents were over for dinner. I grilled burgers using the Voogt beef (so good!), sauteed yellow beans in a little butter, sauteed kohlrabi in a little butter with salt and pepper, boiled corn on the cob, grilled peaches, and oatmeal apple butter bars.

And for the week ahead... as long as the broccoli does indeed look like its done producing for the season, I'll be ripping it up and having Kevin till up the soil again so I can plant another round of yellow zucchini. I'll be finishing up the weeding in the garden this morning - maybe I'll even take a picture finally. I'd like to make some oatmeal-apple butter bars this week. And we'll see what I find at the farmers markets to see if I end up doing any canning... I never went to get tomatoes last week, so maybe I'll have time this week and can make a batch of some much-needed salsa. I'll probably also freeze some zucchini slices since I have a lot coming in right now. And maybe make another batch of just normal basil pesto. We'll see how much time I end up having.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Veggie Quesadillas (Super Stuffed Tortillas)

Last night, I tried another recipe from my Simply in Season cookbook for Super Stuffed Tortillas. These were super easy to throw together and so very yummy! We all loved them! This is a very versatile recipe, too - you could change up the veggies and add chicken and they'd be just as yummy. I'm going to chop up the veggies needed for these and freeze them in bags so all I'll have to do in the winter time is pull one bag from the freezer and it'll be a quick and easy weeknight meal for us.

Veggie Quesadillas (a.k.a. Super Stuffed Tortillas)

2 teaspoons oil (I used organic canola spray)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (organic)
1 large onion (I used half an organic Michigan sweet onion - I think they're called Walla Walla?)
1 bell pepper (I used organic red)
2 cups corn (I used organic frozen white corn)
1 small-medium zucchini, sliced (I used organic yellow zucchini)
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cumin (organic)
2 cups cooked black beans (I used home-canned organic)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth (I used home-canned chicken stock)
6 Tablespoons salsa (I used home-canned)
flour or corn tortillas (I used organic flour)
cheese, cheddar/feta/queso blanco (I used co-jack)

Saute garlic in 2 teaspoons oil for 1 minute. Add onion and pepper and saute until crisp-tender. Add the corn, zucchini, and cumin and saute until all vegetables are tender, but not browned. Add the black beans, broth, and salsa. Cook until there is no excess moisture. Remove from heat.

Preheat a frypan with a bit of oil and place a tortilla in pan. Add cheese in center of tortilla and add 1/4-1/2 cup of veggie filling. When the tortilla is crispy, remove, and fold in half. Or place a second tortilla on top, flip, and fry crisp. (I added a small amount of cheese on top of the veggies and put a second tortilla on top).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Planning ahead

While it may seem a bit early to already be thinking of next year's harvest... I'm already thinking ahead. What can I say, other than I'm a planner and I have a lot of time to just think while I'm in the car on my commutes to and from work and meetings.

We inherited a home orchard in dire straights when we purchased our house two years ago. We have more than twenty apple and pear trees that are in desperate need of some TLC. I am focusing on giving this to them this year - by pruning them back (they're waaaay overgrown right now) and cleaning them up, making them healthy again. We've cut down several trees beyond repair and have several more to remove this year, but all in all, I think there's still hope for most of them - the pears especially.

Anyway, I've been talking to some of the local orchards that have stands at the farmers markets I visit and have been learning more about different varieties of fruits. So I'm thinking ahead to next year's (tree) planting season (mid-March to early-April) and want to keep track of the fruit trees I'd like to invest in. I hope to one day have a self-sufficient home orchard that will allow me to share the bounty with my friends and family! How great would it be to have access to super tasty, organically grown fruit??

This will be my running list of ideas that I'll update whenever I learn more and/or make a new decision. I know I won't be investing in all of these trees next year, but I'm going to start at least. This year I had the best intentions to plant peach trees, but our local nursery never got their stock in, for some reason. So next year, I've got to do some catching up. I'll be talking with a couple of my local nurseries in the next few months to discuss their access to and likelihood that they could/would order me certain varieties of trees. If I'm not successful on the local route, I'll be ordering them from some tree farms in neighboring states that have websites featuring online ordering systems so that I can ensure I get the varieties I really want.

First up... sweet cherries. I plan to plant sweet cherry trees next year (2010). The variety I've been most impressed with have been the Hedelfingen cherries. They are so sweet, they're like eating candy. Probably the sweetest cherries I've ever tasted! Although, the grower I know that grows this variety says that the sweetness of the cherry is dependent upon the drainage of your soil... the better drainage you have, the sweeter the cherry will be. Either way, I will definitely be getting a Hedelfingen tree. Sweet cherries need to be planted in groups of two or three different varieties that all ripen at about the same time to allow for cross-pollination. I need to do some more research into my second sweet cherry variety, but from the little research I've done so far, I'm thinking the Emperor Francis might be my next pick. And third, would be Kristin. All three of these varieties are hardy, which with my living in Michigan is a major necessity!

Next up... peaches. I'm hoping to plant peaches next year (2010), as well. Peaches are self-pollinating, so I really only need to plant one variety, so I'll probably just start with one and then add another peach tree or two in later years to allow for staggering the ripening of the fruits so I can have a longer harvest. Redhavens seem to be the most popular peaches to grow in Michigan. I like them because they're great for canning and/or eating fresh, and they're freestone. They're also bud-hardy... meaning they have a higher resistance to spring frosts (which happen often in Michigan and are usually a major factor in why many home-growers have trouble growing peaches in the area). So a Redhaven will probably be my first peach tree.

Next... tart cherries. I think I'll hold off till 2011 to plant any tart cherry trees. Tart cherries are necessary for cherry pies and while I don't make many at this point, I'm sure I would if I had the convenience of having my own fruit in my own orchard! Tart cherries are also self-fertile, so there's no need for more than one tree or variety. I think I'll start with a Montmorency, as they are very productive and very hardy.

Next... nectarines. I love, love, love nectarines! They are probably one of my favorite fruits. I'd love to plant a nectarine tree next year, but I think I will hold off until 2011. Nectarines can be difficult to grow in Michigan, so I think I need to learn and gain some more experience growing and maintaining a home orchard before I throw a nectarine tree into the mix. Fantasia nectarines seem like a great choice, as they're hardy, disease-resistant, and very productive. Nectarines are self-pollinating, so I only need one variety, but a second will be very tempting! Redgolds have all the same qualities of the Fantasias, so I think that'd be a strong runner-up. Although, it might be fun to throw a white-fleshed variety into the mix, too. Arctic Glo nectarines have a good hardiness and disease resistance rating, so maybe that would be a good pick, too.

Next... plums. While I don't have any knowledge of growing plums (other than I've heard they're difficult to grow in home gardens), I'd still like to try them at some point. I think I'll wait till 2012 or beyond before adding plums to the orchard, though. I'd like to plant some Japanese varieties, of which I'll need at least two that bloom about the same time to ensure cross-pollination. The Early Golden variety sounds like a strong candidate as it is very sweet, vigorous, and hardy. The second variety that sounds good to me is probably Methley. As for European varieties (which also need to be cross-pollinized), Stanley sounds like a winner, as well as Victory. But I'll do some chatting with the orchards to find out what varieties they've had luck with on plums before I'd try them myself.

Next... apples. Even with all of the apple trees on the property at the moment, I'd still like to plant some new ones... some new varieties. I'm not sure what varieties of apple trees we even have, though I suspect most of them to be McIntosh and Jonathan apples. I don't want to add any apple trees into the orchard until I've "healthified" the existing trees, though. There's no sense in spreading any bugs or disease to a new tree. So I won't be planting any new apple trees next year so I can see how the existing trees do after a season of TLC this year. I'm thinking 2011 will be a good apple tree planting year. I'd love to have a Crimson Gala tree... gala apples are my favorite and I just like the timing of this gala variety. I'd also love to have a Golden Delicious tree, as I love golden delicious apples, too!

And finally... pears. I really don't think I'll need to plant any pear trees at this point, as we have a good number of them already - and four or five different varieties, both asian and european. So I think I'm set there.

As far as other fruits in the garden. I planted two Darrow blackberry bushes this spring that seem to be growing moderately so far. I'll watch them to see how they do next year and I may add another bush or two to their patch. I've also started a raspberry patch with some transplants from other parts of our yard and from a colleague of mine that seem to be growing very well. With the way raspberries spread, I don't think I'll have to do any more planting for awhile. I do want to invest in some blueberry bushes next year, though. I know you need a couple different varieties with similar bloom/ripening times to cross-pollinate and ensure the best yields, but I'll have to do some more research into what varieties produce the best in this area. Initial research has me interested in North Blue an North Sky and Tophat varieties... all of which have the sweet, wild blueberry flavor - yum! And at some point, I'd like to build a strawberry patch, too. Whether we'll have the time at some point this year to buy the wood to build the patch and then get the soil going, we'll just have to see how it goes. I'm thinking it might be two more years before we get any strawberries growing, though. I think the only thing missing are grapes, really. I don't know anything about growing grapes yet, so don't really have an interest in them, but maybe that will develop over the years. We had some grapes on the property, but Kevin tore them out last year since they were pretty diseased.

So that's my list... quite a big one, yes? But it'll be so awesome to accomplish! And really, having a home orchard and berry patches don't require that much effort if you're growing organically... which I'm planning to do. I did buy some chemical pesticides last year to use, but after reading the packages was too freaked out to use them - that is some really scary stuff that commerical and non-organic home growers spray on their fruit!! Its just not for me, if I can avoid it, which I know I can. :)

Cherry Mousse

I decided to make a cherry mousse recipe I found on RecipeZaar for dessert to go along with our cherry chicken lettuce wraps. This was super simple to make - and could be simplified even more if you use a tub of Cool Whip if you're not trying to stay away from HFCS, anyway. This didn't have a ton of flavor, but its a nice, light-tasting, refreshing summer dessert. Maybe up the sugar a bit to give it a little more sweetness, or add more cherries. It was still good, as is, though.

Cherry Mousse

1 lb fresh sweet cherries, rinsed
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
2 cups heavy cream, preferably not ultra pasteurized

Set aside 6 whole cherries, with stems if still attached. Pit the remaining cherries. Combine the pitted cherries and one tablespoon of the confectioner's sugar in a food processor. Puree until coarsely chopped.

Whip the cream with the remaining confectioner's sugar until medium peaks form. Fold in the cherry puree and distribute the mouse among champagne flutes or small parfait glasses. Top with reserved cherries and serve immediately. The longer the mousse sits the darker the color.

Cherry Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Being that we're in peak cherry season right now, I figured I'd better do a little cooking with them before their short season comes to an end. I found some more local sweet cherries grown about 12 miles up the road from me, actually. So I thought they'd be perfect to use in making cherry chicken lettuce wraps, which I found on AllRecipes. I've made lettuce wraps similar to those at PF Changs before and we've loved them, so I thought we'd probably love these, too. These were super easy to make and super tasty, too! My dad was over when we ate them and Carson, my dad, and I all loved them. Kevin would have loved them if he didn't have an allergic reaction to the cherries. :( Even though I sauteed my veggies in with the chicken and didn't leave them raw, he still had a reaction to them. Other than that, this is a great recipe to try!

Cherry Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 tablespoons canola oil (I used sesame oil for more of an asian flavor)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce (I didn't have any, so just use 1 T soy sauce and 1 T worchestershire sauce)
1 tablespoon honey
1 pound dark sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/3 cup toasted and sliced almonds
12 leaves of lettuce

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ginger and chicken and saute until cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon oil, vinegar, teriyaki sauce and honey until mixed together. Add chicken mixture, cherries, carrot, green onion and almonds; toss together. (I sauteed all of mine together for a few minutes.)

To Serve: Spoon 1/12 of the chicken/cherry mixture onto the center of each lettuce leaf; roll up leaf around filling and serve.

Meal plans and the week ahead

This past week I was able to get quite a bit done in terms of food preservation. I...

~ canned two batches of black forest preserves
~ made a batch of garlic scape pesto which gave me two ice cube trays of frozen pesto
~ dried two bunches of green onions from the farmers market
~ dried dill from the garden
~ blanched and froze 3 more heads of broccoli from the garden
~ dried and froze more cherries (now I'm up to 6 quarts dried and 4 quarts frozen and I think I'm about done with cherries for the season unless I can find some tart cherries to make cherry pie filling... but tart cherries are usually before sweet cherries, so I think I missed them.)

This week will be a fairly normal week again. Kevin won't be traveling for work at all this week, which will be nice. I'll be going to Detroit on Monday afternoon and again Tuesday morning. I have a late meeting in Lansing on Tuesday afternoon, so that will be a later night for me, but otherwise everything looks good. Here's what I'm thinking as far as meals go this week... but I might change them up a bit once I get back from the farmers market later this afternoon.

Sunday ~ asian grilled pork chops, sesame braised pac choi from the garden, zucchini fritters using some frozen grated zucchini from my garden last year, leftover cherry mousse, Kevin and my Dad worked on my sister's car at our house all day, so my Mom brought over babyback ribs, potato salad, baked beans, and cheesy potatoes.
Meatless Monday ~ super stuffed tortillas, with leftover cherry mousse if there's any left
Tuesday ~ Something easy since I'll be running a little late... tacos are super easy, so we'll do a taco night using ground lamb
Wednesday ~ grilled chicken breasts marinated in italian dressing, whole wheat organic penne pasta with broccoli and cherry tomatoes from the garden, yellow zucchini, garlic scapes, EVOO, and freshly grated parmesan cheese
Thursday ~ grilled burgers using the Voogt beef, oven-baked organic red potato wedges, steamed broccoli from the garden
Friday ~ TBD... possibly grilled pizzas
Saturday ~ I'll be in Lansing for a Girls' Night Out to celebrate the upcoming birth of my SIL's third child. We'll be painting pottery and then going to eat at P.F. Chang's. Kevin and Carson will be on their own with some leftovers, unless they end up ordering pizza.

As for the week ahead and things I hope to accomplish... I have some buttermilk to use up, so I'll have to do some baking. I'm not sure what I'll make yet, though. Maybe I'll make up another batch of those lemon blueberry cookies and freeze them - they were so yummy and easy to make. Or maybe I'll make another batch of scones. I'll have to think about it.

The tomatoes are in already at Eichelbergs farm stand down the road from us. I'm going to wait to see how the beginning of the week plays out, but I think I might make a trip down there to get some tomatoes to do up some salsa. I'm down to one jar left from last year - and that will be used up this week with our dinners on Monday and Tuesday. Its blueberry season now, too. So I think I'll pick up some local blueberries at the market to get in the dehydrator. I ordered four more trays for my dehydrator last week, so hopefully they arrive early in the week because they'll be so handy to dry larger quantities of fruits and veggies. I also ordered the fruit roll screens (I only have 1 screen so far) for the trays so I can try making fruit leathers in the dehydrator. Blueberry fruit leathers sound great right now!

We'll see how much is ready in the garden this week. I know we'll have more broccoli - enough to use with meals this week and to freeze a good amount, too. The cauliflower will be ready soon, too, they're growing such cute little heads right now. The cabbages are so cute right now, too. I'm hoping to harvest the majority of the remaining pac choi to blanch and freeze this week. I'm getting lots of ripe cherry tomatoes right now, but those will be used in lunches, with dinner, or for Carson this week (Carson LOVES tomatoes!!). We've got a couple bell peppers that are getting quite large and it doesn't look like it'll be long before they're ready to pick. I think I'll be able to start harvesting zucchini and beans soon, too. I tore out the peas over the weekend and Kevin tilled up the space for me and I've planted another round of masai haricot green beans there. Everything is growing so well in the garden right now - all the veggies look awesome, but the weeds are growing like crazy right now, too. I'll be doing some major weeding/hoeing back there in the evenings to keep the weeds under control.

I think that's enough to keep me busy for the week... but just in case I need something else to focus on... I want to clean out and re-organize my upstairs pantry again. Its so cluttered and disorganized right now and its driving me absolutely crazy!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Black Forest Jam

Well, guess what I found at the farmers market yesterday? Cherries!! And they're actually not Traverse City cherries - which I wouldn't consider local for me even though they're delicious - but they're from Romeo, which is about 50 miles away, so they're local! Yeah!! I bought 8 quarts and have made it through 6 of them already. 3 quarts were dehydrated, 2 quarts were used in making this jam, 1 quart has been frozen. I'll freeze another quart today and the last quart will be for fresh eating. I'd still like to make some cherry pie filling, but we'll have to see if I can find other local cherries this week at one of the other markets. I'd kind of like to dehydrate another few quarts, too. Since Carson eats raisins like they're going out of style right now, I'm hoping he likes dried cherries (he'll get to try them today). They're a great snack, but I'd also like to make sure I have some for baking this fall/winter, too.

Anyway, back to the jam. This recipe is from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. My friend from work is borrowing my book right now, so I had to look this one up on one of the canning groups I follow, so hopefully its still the correct recipe. Its the one I used, at least. And it is soooo good! I tasted it as I was filling the jars - YUM! I wanted to make this to use as a filling for a chocolate cake and it'd be a great ice cream or cheesecake topping, too! I made a double batch, as I'm thinking this might be a good holiday gift for our mailman, hair stylist, etc.

Black Forest Jam

6 1/2 c. granulated sugar (organic, free-trade certified)
1/3 c. sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (organic, free-trade certified)
3 c. firmly packed, coarsely chopped, pitted sweet black cherries (I used Bing cherries)
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 pouches (3 oz. each) liquid pectin
4 T. amaretto liqueur or 1/2 tsp almond extract (I used the extract)

Prepare canner, jars, and lids. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cocoa powder. Stir well and set aside.

In a large, deep, stainless steel saucepan, combine the cherries and lemon juice. Stir in reserved cocoa mixture. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in amaretto liqueur. Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot preserves. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

Makes 7 half pints.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Garlic Scape Pesto

I've picked up a couple bunches of garlic scapes at one of the farmers markets that I go to and knew I wanted to make pesto with some of them. A few days after I bought the first bunch, Kat at A Good Appetite posted a recipe for garlic scape pesto - how perfect is that! So I made up a batch of it today - yum! This stuff is GOOD!! I brushed some of it on the chicken I grilled for our dinner tonight and then I froze the rest of it in cubes. This will be awesome to have on hand to put on chicken and lamb.

Garlic Scape Pesto

2 c garlic scapes, flower removed & green stems chopped
2/3 c slivered almonds (I used walnuts)
1 1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan
1 t salt

Put the scapes & nuts into a food processor & pulse until as smooth as you can get it. With the food processor running drizzle in the olive oil (It'll seem like a lot) & process until smooth. Stir or process in the cheese (I processed it in to get it more incorporated.) Stir in salt & pepper. Store in the fridge for one week or freeze.

About 3 cups.

Meal plans and the week ahead

A new week again. And still not a "normal" week for us. I'm off on Monday for one of my unpaid furlough days - all state offices are closed, so don't try to go to Secretary of State or anything like that. Then Tuesday, Kevin is going back down to Lafayette, Indiana for the day - drive down early morning to get there for a noon meeting, then head home around 5:00, so it'll be a late night for him. At least the rest of the week is pretty relaxed. Well for the most part anyway. I have to go to Windsor on Thursday for some meetings, but I shouldn't be late. Hopefully we'll be able to get a lot accomplished at the ranch. Here's what I'm thinking for meals thus far, but I'm sure things will change a bit once I hit up the farmers markets...

~ grilled chicken with garlic scape pesto, steamed organic broccoli raab, fresh organic strawberries, leftover dreamsicle jello salad
Meatless Monday ~ crustless quiche with broccoli from the garden, local cheddar, garlic scapes, and chives from the garden... I might throw in a few cherry tomatoes from the garden, too, since they're coming in right now, sauteed fava beans with basil from the garden, fresh organic strawberries
Tuesday ~ Kevin is in Lafayette. I think Carson and I will just eat leftover quiche with the last of the dreamsicle jello salad.
Wednesday ~ stir-fry with chicken, the last of the snow peas from our garden, broccoli from our garden, organic chard from the farmers market, organic bell pepper, and organic onion; fresh strawberries if I can still find them at the farmers market this week, if not then maybe cherries
Thursday ~ I'm in Windsor. I think we'll grill burgers so I can use up the burgers I pre-made and froze with the Laura's Lean beef... I am anxious to try the Voogt ground beef, but want to use these up first. We'll have green beans from the freezer and Meijer Natural corn chips with the burgers. I think we'll have vanilla ice cream topped with home-canned apple pie filling for dessert.
Friday ~ asian grilled pork chops, sesame braised pac choi, broccoli from the garden We ended up going out to eat at Telly's Coney Island since we were all wanting to get out.
Saturday ~ sort of undecided at this point, but I think we'll grill another of the Voogt steaks with some sort of veggies that I find this week at the market... I'd like to make creamed chard and something else to use some of my recipes in my Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook. I've decided to make cherry chicken lettuce wraps and cherry mousse since cherry season isn't going to last too much longer here.

As far as extras this week, today I'll be making up a bunch of garlic scape pesto to use with dinner and the rest to freeze. (DONE) And we'll see what I find at the farmers markets, though I might take a week off from the markets this week. Well all but my local Swartz Creek market on Sundays, that is. Although, the Michigan cherries might arrive this week... so I'm not sure if I could stay away then... I'll have to wait and see what the Allen Street newsletter says first. If the cherries are in, then I want to make a batch of black forest jam (DONE) and cherry pie filling, as well as dry a bunch (5 QUARTS DONE, BUT WANT TO DO MORE) and freeze a bunch (2 QUARTS DONE, BUT WANT TO DO MORE), too. So I guess we'll see how it goes. Otherwise, I'll focus on getting some herbs dry from my garden since I didn't get to the oregano or sage that I wanted to last week (DILL IS DONE) and maybe make up some basil-pine nut pesto to freeze since my basil is coming in strong right now. I think I'll probably have to blanch and freeze some broccoli from the garden (DONE), since its coming in strong right now, as well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Cookies

Add one more thing to my list yesterday - lemon blueberry cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod. I had wanted to make them for our Independence Day party today, but never got a chance during the day. Carson went to bed early last night, so I made them quick after he was sleeping. They were super easy to make and they are so yummy!! My glaze is a little thinner than I'd like, but they still taste great! Oh, and I forgot to add the egg - d'oh! I didn't realize it till I'd put the first tray in the oven. I thought they'd come out with a weird texture or be super crumbly or something, without the addition of the binder. But they actually seem to be totally fine. Good thing!

Lemon Blueberry Cookies

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (organic)
Zest of two large lemons
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used organic extra-virgin coconut oil)
¾ cup granulated sugar (organic and free-trade certified)
1 large egg (forgot this!)
½ tsp. vanilla extract (organic)
1/3 cup buttermilk
Fresh blueberries (I used frozen)

Confectioners sugar
Fresh lemon juice
Lemon zest

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, add the sugar and lemon zest. Rub them together with your fingers until well mixed. This brings out the lemon flavor.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar/lemon mixture and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat well to mix. Add the vanilla, and beat on low. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Drop the dough by level tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leave about 1 ½ inches between each cookie. Tuck 4-5 blueberries into each cookie. Try to make sure they are hidden. Bake one sheet at a time for about 11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1-2 minutes; then transfer them to a wire rack.

For the glaze, whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. I never measure, just guess until you get the right consistency and flavor. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Dreamsicle Jello Salad

I found a recipe on RecipeZaar for a dreamsicle jello salad awhile back and have had all of the ingredients on hand for awhile now. So I decided I'd make it for our family party at the lake tomorrow afternoon to celebrate America's Birthday!! I tasted a small dab before I put it in the refrigerator and this really does taste just like a dreamsicle - so yummy if you like dreamsicles at least! I didn't take a picture - I'll try to remember tomorrow when I get it out and I'll update then.

Dreamsicle Jello Salad

2 (3 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding
1 (3 ounce) package orange Jell-O
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 (22 ounce) can mandarin oranges (with juice)
1 (16 ounce) container Cool Whip

Combine the pudding, Jello and boiling water and dissolve completely. Add the Mandarin Oranges (with juice). Fold in the Cool Whip. Refrigerate.

Pork Souvlaki and Tzatziki

Tonight we had pork souvlaki and tzatziki from Kalofagos. Oh my goodness, this was sooooo good!! All three of us loved it! The meat had such a great flavor. I'm already planning to make chicken or lamb souvlaki using this method sometime. The tzatziki was very good, too. Though I doubt I'll make it again just because I am the only one that ate it, so now I have a ton of leftover tzatziki that I'm not sure what I'll do with... I can only eat so many pita chips dipped in it before I'll be sick of it... but I guess maybe I'll take it for a snack at work or something. Anyway, definitely try this souvlaki sometime - it is just so delicious! We had ours with some grilled summer squash and zucchini. And I forgot to take a picture of the tzatziki - check out Kalofagos, there's a picture there.

Pork Souvlaki

1 boneless pork butt/shoulder (we used some of our yummy pork from my BFF's brother)
1 medium onion, grated (organic, I just chopped mine)
3 cloves of garlic, minced (organic)
1 heaping tsp. salt
1 heaping tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 heaping tsp. dried Greek oregano
wooden skewers, soaked overnight

Trim excess fat from your pork butt and cut into uniform pieces. In a large bowl, add your remaining marinade ingredients along with the pork pieces and toss to mix and coat all the meat. Place in the fridge for at least 5 hours and for best results, overnight. (I soaked mine overnight) Place your wooden skewers in a shallow baking dish that’s filled with water. Allow the wooden skewers to soak overnight (so they don’t disintegrate when grilling).

The next day, a couple of hours before you are going to grill your souvlaki, allow the pork to come to room temperature and then start skewering your meat - it’s easier when your meat’s at room temperature.

Pre-heat your grill and when you have a medium-high heat, grill your souvlakia for 3-4 minutes a side and then keep warm until all the souvlaki are cooked. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on your souvlakia with a sprinkle of fine sea salt and dried Greek oregano.

Serve with some crusty bread and Tzatziki.


500 gr. of greek (strained) yogurt
1-2 cloves of minced garlic (depending how garlicky you like it)
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
splash of Ouzo (left this out)
extra virgin olive oil

Take your cucumber and seed it then box grate it into a strainer. Sprinkle some salt to help draw out the moisture. Give the cucumber 30 minutes and use a cheese cloth or your hands (in batches) to squeeze out the water.

Add your shredded cucumber to the yogurt and now add 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, your chopped dill, season with salt to taste and lastly, a splash of Ouzo....yes Ouzo. It gives your Tzatziki that "je ne sais quoi"! (I didn't use Ouzo)

Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, give it a dill garnish and serve with toasted pita bread.

Balsamic BBQ Sauce

I finally had some time to can up a batch of balsamic BBQ sauce this morning after I'd canned a batch of strawberry jam. I've been wanting to can this sauce since we tried it a few weeks back on balsamic BBQ chicken. Its a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe and it is soooo yummy! I made a triple batch today and wish I'd have had more balsamic vinegar to do an even larger batch since I only ended up with three half-pints. But its better than nothing, right? Its very easy to make, so making another batch later on won't be a big deal, at least. I'll post the original recipe, but like I said, I tripled everything to make a larger batch.

Balsamic BBQ Sauce

1 cup balsamic vinegar (organic)
3/4 cup ketchup (organic)
1/3 cup brown sugar (organic)
1 garlic clove, minced (organic)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by 1/3, about 15 to 20 minutes. Ladle into hot jars and boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Kale Chips

I saw this recipe in a newsletter that I signed up for from Nature's Pace Organics. I thought it sounded interesting and so when I saw some organic kale for sale at the Lansing City Market, I figured I wanted to try out this recipe with some of the kale. This is a fun recipe for the little ones to help with, too. Carson had a blast helping me tear up the kale into chip size pieces and had fun helping mix it up with the oil and seasonings... what kid doesn't love getting their hands all oily? :) The chips look really dark, almost black in my picture - they're more of a dark forest green, really. They're pretty good- something different to snack on or have as a side dish. We had some with our dinner tonight and all three of us ate them alright. I doubt anyone will be requesting them, but they're a nice, healthy alternative to make sometime.

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale
Mineralized salt of some form
Seasonings - Herbamare, Curry, Roasted Garlic or Peppper (I used garlic powder)
Oil of choice

Pull leaves off thick stem. Rip stems into smaller pieces, say chip size. Drizzle oil on top and proceed with hands to transfer drizzled oil to all surface areas of kale. Salt and season to liking. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes stirring periodically. You may need to leave in oven with temp off afterwards to evaporate excess moisture on greens. (I only left mine in for about 10 minutes and they seemed plenty crispy. Any longer and it seems like they'd all taste burnt like some of my smaller pieces did.)

Veggies, Veggies, Everywhere!

And strawberries, too! I've been hitting up the farmers markets again this week. On Wednesday, I stopped by the Allen Street market in Lansing on my way home from work. It was a crummy day with all the rain we were getting, but there was still a great turnout at the market. I picked up some local organic pure maple syrup, a bag of organic spinach, a bunch of organic rainbow swiss chard, a bunch of organic garlic scapes, a bunch of organic broccoli raab, and a bunch of organic green onions. The spinach has already been dehydrated, the chard has been blanched and frozen, the scapes I'll be using to make pesto at some point this weekend, the broccoli raab we'll be having with one of our meals on Sunday, and the green onions will be used in random dishes and I'll be dehydrating some of them, too - I think I'm going to use them to make my own garlic salt.

Then on Thursday, I stopped into the Lansing City Market on my lunch break. I had intended to just run in quick to pick up some Moo-Ville whole milk, but they were out of whole milk. But I noticed they had butter for sale, which I hadn't seen before. I spent some time talking to the Moo-Ville Lady and found out they've just started producing their own butter - hormone-free, antibiotic-free, all-natural... their products could be considered organic if they applied to be certified. I was excited when she said it was only $3/pound!! I've been searching for a good and affordable source for organic butter and I've finally found it! Yeah! After my Moo-Ville butter find, I spent some time chatting with a local farmer - Jane Bush (who I'd bought my maple syrup from the day before). I ended up buying a flat of organic strawberries and another bag of organic spinach. I have to say that these strawberries are the best we've had yet! I've already run through most of them - making 9 half-pints of strawberry jam, freezing a quart, drying another couple quarts. We're keeping one quart to eat fresh and then I think I might try making some strawberry fruit leather with the last quart... we'll just have to see how much time I have tomorrow or Sunday. The spinach I'll be using for salads. I also picked up a pint of organic fava beans and a bunch of kale from one of the organic CSAs with a stand at the city market. We'll have the fava beans as a side dish to one of our meals next week and the kale has been made into kale chips.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Preserving the Harvest

For the last month or more, I've been working on a list of preservation efforts I'd love to accomplish at some point this year. Most of which are using things I am actually growing in my garden, or things I'm hoping to pick up at one of my local farmers markets this summer. I think my list is pretty ambitious, but it'll be awesome if I can actually accomplish all of this. And I'm sure I'll switch some things up as time goes on, especially once I look through all of my canning books again, but here's my list so far with things crossed off that I've already completed.


  • Strawberries (RAW: 2 qts sliced, 2 qts halved; DRY: 2 pint jars)
  • Cherries (RAW: 6 qts whole; DRY: 3 pint jars)
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes (RAW: 1 pound; DRY: 1 half-pint jar )
  • Spinach (RAW: 4 pounds; DRY: 1 pint jar)
  • Zucchini (RAW: 3 medium yellow; DRY: 3/4 pint jar)
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Yellow/White Onions
  • Red Onions
  • Green Onions (RAW: 2 bunches; DRY: 3/4 pint jar)
  • Carrots
  • Oregano
  • Dill (RAW: 3 bunches; DRY: 1 half-pint jar)
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Chives (DRY: half of a half-pint jar)
  • Sage



  • Giada’s Balsamic BBQ Sauce (3 half-pints)
  • Ketchup
  • Mustards – Dijon, Beer
  • Dill Pickles
  • Salad Dressings


  • Cream Soups – Celery, Broccoli, Chicken
  • Giada’s Tomato Soup


  • Beef
  • Veggie


  • Beans – Cannellini, Pinto, Black, Chili/Ranch-style
  • Creamed Corn
  • Corn Salsa
  • Cut Green Beans
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Stewed Tomatoes
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Enchilada Sauce


  • Strawberry Syrup (7 half-pints)
  • Strawberry Jam (9 half-pints)
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves (7 half-pints)
  • Black Forest Jam (14 half-pints)
  • Cherry Pie Filling (6 pints, 1 half-pint)
  • Sliced Peaches
  • Peach Butter
  • Pear Sauce
  • Sliced Pears
  • Applesauce
  • Apple Butter

Other Sweet Things

  • Butterscotch Sauce
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Hot Fudge Sauce


  • Strawberries (5 quarts)
  • Sweet Cherries (4 quarts)
  • Tart Cherries
  • Blueberries (1 gallon bag)
  • Pesto – Spinach, Basil, Parsley, Basil-Arugula (2 trays), Garlic Scape (2 trays)
  • Spinach (3 pounds)
  • Snow Peas (2 quarts, 2 pints... about 3/4 of a gallon-size bag)
  • Sugar Snap Peas (missed them)
  • Chard (2 pounds)
  • Pac Choi
  • Broccoli (11 heads... 2 1-gallon size bags and 1 quart size bag)
  • Zucchini (1 gallon bag of yellow slices, 1 gallon bag of yellow chunks)
  • Beans (2 1/2 1-gallon bags)
  • Corn (9 ears de-cobbed = 1/2 1-gallon bag)
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Parsley, chopped with a little water in cubes (1 tray)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dry, Dry Again

This week I've been doing some dehydrating, which is something I plan to do more of this year than I did last year. Dehydrating fruits and veggies is a great way to preserve them and I'm excited to try drying more veggies this year (I mainly did fruits last year). I bought the book Making and Using Dried Foods this past winter and have learned a lot - I'd highly recommend anyone interested in drying any fruits or veggies to pick up a copy of this book. So anyway, back to my dehydrating. I ran two quarts of sliced strawberries through the dehydrator on Sunday and ran that large bag of organic spinach that I picked up at the farmer's market through last night while we were sleeping. I've got four trays of oregano that are in the dehydrator today and I plan to do a batch of sage tonight. I'll be going to the Allen Street farmers market in Lansing today after work to hopefully pick up some more strawberries, which I plan to use to make strawberry jam and then dehydrate another couple of quarts. Maybe I'll be lucky and find some more spinach, too, otherwise I'll have to wait till the fall crop of spinach to dehydrate more of that. The dehydrated strawberries will be great to bake with - I used home-dried strawberries in the double berry scones I made a few weeks back, just as an example. The dehydrated spinach I plan to use to make homemade spinach pasta this fall/winter and it will also be a good addition to soups. Much more convenient that thawing some spinach for things like that, at least.