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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spicy Pickled Carrots

When we first moved to Madison, we frequented Casa de Lara where we experienced spicy pickled carrots served in our chip bowl. Such delicious memories of those that my mouth actually started watering typing that last sentence. Our first year as Harmony Valley members we acquired enough carrots to can a few batches of our own. That was several years ago, so it's been a long time since jars of orange pickled goodness have graced our pantry shelves.

A few weeks ago, Harmony Valley Farm offered a produce plus box of 10 pounds of carrots to its members. That means that members can buy an item in bulk in addition to their regular vegetable boxes. Our intention with all of these carrots involved lots of juicing (and freezing that juice for later consumption) and canning spicy pickled carrots!

Tonight, we canned 5 quarts of these spicy treats for later and pickled 2 quarts for refrigerator storage. I wish we had found time earlier this month to get this work done. I'd have loved to share these along with some homemade tortilla chips and canned salsa over the holidays. Oh well! Easter, perhaps?

The recipe is here, on one of our favorite fellow foodie blogs, Hitchhiking to Heaven. If you haven't, check this blog out! It's ripe with recipes for anything you'd ever want to jam, jelly, and/or can.

The only adaptions we made were:
1) we cut ours into slices instead of spears to make it easy to add these sour-spicy-sweet snacks to our chip bowl.
2) we added one dried guajillo pepper to each jar for an extra kick!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eggs in Time for the Holiday Season!

On Friday, Andy found not one, but two eggs in our chicken coop! One was broken and frozen, and the other was as fresh as a daisy. Today we used the intact one to make bread.

Here's that egg:
This morning, we went out to the coop again and found another egg. Janis (the white Polish hen) is the star! We gave the chickens some attention and some treats. Zappa and Spinderella loved the playtime, but Janis was content with eating egg shells as fast as she could. 

Later this afternoon, we went shopping for Christmas dinner and spirits, and so we browsed through our blog to find our Irish Cream recipe. In last year's entry, we mentioned that we hoped it was our final year buying eggs for that recipe. Our resolution one year ago was to  have chickens laying eggs by now. Even after Marek's, our little layers didn't let us down.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vegetable Chowder

Walking from the car to our front door is becoming a challenge. The wind gusts slap our faces in the blackness of the 5:00 sky. Upon opening the door, our wet shoes are taken off, leaving clumps of snow scattered on the welcome mat. Gloves, hats, and jackets hang over the backs of chairs, leaving yet one more sign that winter is indeed here.

The Christmas tree looks beautiful, so once cozied inside, winter doesn't seem so bad. Even better, soups are always filling the house with smells of earthy roots and dried herbs. Tonight is no exception. Tonight is Vegetable Chowder Soup Night.

Here's our recipe, adapted slightly from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen :

2 cups milk
3 Tbs. butter
5-6 cups of water
1 rutabaga *
2 cups carrots
3 blue potatoes*
1 large onion
8 cloves of garlic
1 turnip*
6 stalks of celery or one diced celeriac*
sprigs of dried thyme and parsley
salt and peppercorns

1. Bring milk, lovage, parsley, onion, garlic, whole peppercorns, and thyme to a slow boil. Remove from heat and cover while preparing the vegetables.

2. Chop vegetables into large and attractive pieces.
3. Heat butter over medium to medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Add vegetables and saute for roughly 5 minutes or until they are warm.

4. Stir in flour and water. Bring to a boil. Once at a boil, simmer, slightly covered for 15-20 minutes or  until vegetables are tender with a slight crunch.
5. Strain milk and add to a blender. Add 1-2 cups of vegetable mixture and puree until smooth.
6. Return pureed mixture to the remaining vegetables. Heat for another 5-10 minutes to incorporate flavors.
7. Serve warm over Parmesan toasts.

* Vegetables could be interchanged with other seasonal root vegetables.

For one cup servings: 132 cal; 4.3 g fat; 2 g sat. fat; chol 11 mg; sod 184 mg; carb 21.1; fiber 4.4 g; sugar 9.5 g; protein 3.7 g; Vit A 254% DV; Vit C 48% DV; Calcium 11% DV; Iron 4% DV

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Hot Cup of Tea

If you know us personally, you know that we LOVE tea. Hot and cold. There's a tea for every mood, every season, every stage of every day.

Tired? Brew a cup of green.
Full? Brew a pitcher of pu-erh or oolong.
Not tired, but need to be? Brew a cup of chamomile or lavender or a blend.
Just craving something warm? Brew my personal favorite, mint green tea.
In need of a flavorful immune booster? Brew up a cup of hibiscus.
...need a pick me up? Try our new personal blend created by Andy and produced just for us by Adagio Teas. It's a mixture of ginseng green, ginger, and artichoke green tea.

This healthful tonic of ginseng and ginger, paired with the delightful flavor of the Artichoke Green goes down smooth and leaves you feeling clean and at peace.  These flavors are staples in the kitchen of the Backyard Market.  Enjoy!

So, you might be thinking, "Tea isn't grown locally! Hypocrites!" And to that we answer, "Why no, traditional teas are not grown locally, so we try to grow as many of our herbal teas as possible. And, as for the traditional types, we allow ourselves this luxury. We just have to for our peace of mind and for our health. ...and we're addicted."

If you're thinking of trying our blend, please do! On the right sidebar, click on the tea widget and order some. Let us know what you think.

Directions: Brew a couple of Tbs of tea at 185 degrees for 3 minutes.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thanksgiving(s) 2010

Thursday's dinner at Andy's parents'  house was a delightfully tasty collection of the season's favorites: a turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, Jill's sweet potato casserole, our squash and apple soup, a cranberry mold, and of course, a variety of pie, including our Ginger Sweet Potato Pie.

As is tradition for the past few years, we shop for the turkey, and then split the cost with Andy's parents. This year we were fortunate enough to buy from a company called Black Earth Meats about which we felt pretty good (well, as good as one can feel about any farmed meat). As noted on Black Earth Meat's website, "Our animals are never held in confinement, are never fed antibiotics and never receive synthetic growth hormones." That's about as good as it can get in these times of big business and large farms. Well, short of going out into the woods and hunting down a turkey yourself!

Then,  on Friday, as has become tradition,  Darcy's parents came over for a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Feast. We started the day with pickled beets and beans, crostinis and cheese from our CSA box, and dates.

 Later, we whipped up  most of this year's Vegetarian Times'  holiday menu. We modified a bit, and spent only $35.89 for this meal. Our canned foods, CSA box, and freezer stock helped out immensely. The seasonal Vegetarian Tiimes' menus never disappoint; this year was no exception. The menu was based off of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco and including the following:

  • Winter Squash, Leek, and Apple Soup with Cider Creme Fraiche
  • Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Shepard's Pies with Mushroom Pinot-Noir Sauce
  • Roasted  Brussel Sprouts
  • Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
  • Rainbow Chard with Pumpkin Seeds
  • Wilted Spinach and with Asian Pears, Blue Cheese, and Toasted Pecans (we didn't get to this one)
  • Honey-Almond Tart with Orange Mascarpone (we had squash pie instead)

The highlights were the soup (which we consumed both Thanksgiving days and then had a few bowls for leftovers) and the Wild Mushroom Shepard's Pies with Mushroom Pinot Noir Sauce. This is our third blog entry with a different version of squash soup. Why so many, you might ask? Well, 1) each is a bit different, 2) it's fun to experiment and try new varieties, and 3) most importantly, the three versions point to the countless ingredients and ways you could make squash soup. It really is a simple soup incorporating squash, liquid, and spices. The rest is up to you and your palette.

Here's how you make this holiday's version of the soup and the Sheperd's Pie with Pinot-Noir Sauce. 

Winter Squash, Leek, and Apple Soup with Cider Creme Fraiche
1 large winter squash, halved, seeds removed
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium leeks, white parts only, sliced (2 cups)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 pinches ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups Vegetable Stock
1 bay leaf
Cider Creme Fraiche
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 Tbs. apple cider or apple juice  

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash face down and apple quarters in large baking dish. Add 1 cup of water, cover, and roast for 35-40 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Cool until squash is easy to handle. Scoop flesh from skin; you  should have 6 cups.
2. Heat oil in large soup pot. Add leeks, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 pinch.  pepper; cook 3 minutes, or until pot is nearly dry. Add squash, apple, stock, remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, remaining pinch of pepper, and bay leaf; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf, and puree with immersion blender until smooth and creamy (we just put ours in our Cuisinart). Cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
3. To make Cider Creme Fraiche: whisk together ingredients in a small bowl.
4. To serve, ladle hot Soup into bowls and swirl with Cider Creme Friache. (Hint: If serving for a holiday, I would not skip this step. The Cider Creme Fraiche took the soup up a few notches. I'd also make a bit more Creme Fraiche if I were to serve it at another more formal gathering). 


Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Shepherd's Pie(s)
This can be made into 8 individual ramekins or into one 9-inch pie. We chose to do the latter.
3 lb. gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
6 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
2 Tbs. chopped chives
5 Tbs. olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing
2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced (3 cups)
3 medium portobello mushroom caps
1.5 lb. assorted wild mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, thyme, oregano, and/or sage

1. To make Potatoes: Put potatoes in pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Warm cream and butter in pot; add potatoes, and mash until smooth. Stir in Parmesan and chives, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cool.
2. To make Filling: Heat 1 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, and cook 20 minutes, or until golden.
portobellos gill-side up on baking sheet, and drizzle with 1 Tbs. oil. Roast 25 minutes, or until tender. Cool, then slice thin.
4. Toss wild mushrooms with remaining 3 Tbs. oil and garlic on separate baking sheet; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Roast 20 minutes, or until tender. Cool, chop, and toss with Asiago, herbs, and onions.
5. Coat 9-inch pie dish with cooking pray. Layer portobello slices on bottom of each ring. (Add remaining portobellos to mushroom mixture). Use half of wild mushroom mixture to create second layer. Use one-third of potatoes to create a third layer, then add remaining mushroom mixture. Top with remaining Potatoes, shaping  into a dome. Sprinkle pie with  Parmesan. Bake 40 minutes or until golden.


We made our own Mushroom Stock. Yum!
Mushroom Pinot-Noir Sauce
1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
2.5 cups Mushroom Stock or prepared mushroom broth
1/4 cup Pinot Noir or flavorful red wine
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1.5 Tbs. all purpose flour
1.5 tsp. tamari or mushroom soy sauce.

1. Soak porcini in 1/4 cup hot water 30 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Finely chop porcini, and set aside.
2. Bring Mushroom Stock, wine and soaking liquid to a boil in saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
3. Melt butter in separate saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Whisk 1/2 cup Mushroom Stock into flour mixture to make paste. Add remaining stock 1 cup at a time. Add chopped porcini and soy sauce; simmer 15 minutes, or until sauce is thickened, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ginger Sweet Potato Pie

We're on the dessert task force for tomorrow's Thanksgiving celebration, and we need something sweet for Friday's Vegetarian Thanksgiving, AND I needed something for today's ESL potluck. What to make? Sweet Potato Pie! We realized that we'd been hoarding CSA sweet potatoes for weeks and had just enough to make three pies.

This being our first attempt at a sweet potato pie, we needed to reference an expert. We found an Alton Brown recipe and used it as a skeleton, adding our own flavors and unique techniques to make it our own.

Darcy served the first of the three today at school, and her awesomely fantastic (and sweet) students ate it up! Each of them reacted well, which was a true compliment, given their diverse backgrounds and palettes. They even took extras home for their moms, so that they too could experience this Southern iconic dessert for the first time.

Here's what we did to make three pies:
roughly 3.5-4 lbs. of sweet potatoes
One 12 oz can of evaporated milk
3 cups of homemade yogurt (or store bought))
15 egg yolks
2.25 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger (or more or less to your can eliminate this if you don't like ginger)
3-5 Tbs. maple syrup (depending on your preferences)
3 cups of crushed pecans
3-5 Tbs. brown sugar


3 pre-made 9-inch pie crusts (Willy  Street Co-op sells excellent local crusts)...or try our recipe 

1. Drizzle olive oil on cookie sheet or roasting pan. Cut sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise. Sprinkle each sweet potato with a pinch of sugar. Place sugar side down onto the cookie sheet.
  • The key to a perfectly roasted sweet potato is NOT to pre-heat the oven. 
  • Start roasting sweet potatoes in a cold oven. This will caramelize and accentuate the sugars, making for sweeter sweet potatoes.  
  • We added the sugar on the bottom of the sweet potatoes. The tubers gladly accepted this addition and tasted ... How do you say?... Delicious! 
2. Roast at 375ish until potatoes are fork tender (depending on the size, anywhere from 30-50 minutes).
3. Remove from oven. Once potatoes are cool, remove skins. We found this was easily done by pinching the potatoes with our fingers. The flesh oozed out, leaving the skins behind.
4. Mash the sweet potatoes well.
5. Blend in the yogurt and evaporated milk, the dark sugar, the spices, the ginger, and the egg yolks.
6. Pour into crusts.
7. Sprinkle pecans on pies. Then, sprinkle brown sugar on the pecans. And finally drizzle with the maple syrup...yum! You can use as much or as little as you want for each of these. Personally, we go ALL OUT here. It is already fattening, why not?
8. Bake in a pre-heated oven - 350 degrees - for 50-55 minutes. Ours baked significantly longer (nearly 90 minutes) due to baking three at a time. Good indicators that your pies are ready are that the pies are solid, don't jiggle, and when a knife is inserted into the center, it comes out 90%-100% clean.
9. Cool and then refrigerate.
10. Whip up some organic, locally-produced, humanely-received (be kind to the four-legged creatures, especially on the holidays!) heavy cream to top off each slice of goodness.

ENJOY! Feed back is encouraged and appreciated!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winterizing the Coop

As the description of our blog implies, in many ways, we are learners in the whole homesteading thing. Chickens have always been in our plans; we've definitely experienced trials and joys since getting them, and we continue to need more assistance in keeping them healthy and happy by more experienced chicken owners.

We've done our research concerning winterizing our coop. Because we only have 3 chickens (2 of which are Bantams) living in a coop built for 12-15 chickens, we have to be extra vigilant in our efforts to keep our feathery friends warm and cozy this winter. We're hoping for additional words of advice, comfort, or just plain old suggestions from you, our readers.

So, far...we have:

1. Put in an electric heater which will turn on automatically if the weather drops below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Initially, we didn't want to have to utilize electricity for our little poultry operation, but seeing as how we have 3 lone chickens left (all of whom have been exposed to Marek's), we feel it's probably better safe than sorry. After all, there are not enough of them to keep each other warm.

2. We've surrounded the base of our coop with hay bales for extra insulation.

3. We've attached a tarp to 1/4 of the run netting. We're hoping that this may keep some snow out of the run in case our chickens wanted to run around a bit.

4. We've placed a flock block inside the coop in an effort to give the chickens extra nutrients. We've also been feeding them yogurt with Pedialite a few times a week.

What else can we do to have healthy chickens this winter? Their happiness, comfort and well-being are our primary concerns and reasons for having our own backyard chickens.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cranberry Relish, Spiked, and with a Kick!

      Saturday evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of mushroom cobbler and cranberry-jalapeno relish. The relish tasted traditional enough to warrant a place at the Thanksgiving table and unique/fun enough for me to share the recipe online and with friends who have a similar palette.
      We didn't need to buy any ingredients except for the cranberries (which are in season in Wisconsin!) because we had oranges  leftover from last week's CSA fruit share, and we have jalapenos  remaining from earlier this season.  ...and there's always tequila in the house!

 Cranberry-Jalapeno Relish
1 pint of cranberries
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
the zest of one orange (or less to your liking)
2 Tbs. of good tequila
1/2 cup sugar
juice of one orange

1. Combine the berries, the orange zest, the orange juice (should be 1/2 cup; if not, add water to juice to equal 1/2 cup), tequila, and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. 
2. When the berries start popping, add the chopped jalapeno. Boil for five more minutes, stirring. Add water if  your sauce seems too thick.

3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Be sure to stir occasionally as it cools.
4. Chill if desired.

This recipe is adapted from The New Vegetarian Epicure. Anna Thomas (author) recommends serving this alongside tamales, crepes, or any other richly-flavored dish. Of course, as I mentioned above, you could also let the family try it at Thanksgiving!
Our cats enjoyed our evening of food, wine, and music too. Benson loves cooking night:

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Cheesy Week: Cheese and Broccoli Soup

We're really into cheese this week, I guess. Our last post was about homemade Mac 'n' Cheese, and now the very next day, I'm writing about Cheese and Broccoli Soup. Not good for the waistline, I suppose, but super comforting as Daylight Savings Time has ended and the cold temperatures are lurking.

Our Harmony Valley cheese share is biweekly for much of the year, but as vegetable peak season closes, our CSA schedule fluctuates, so we received cheese two weeks in a row.  Another reason for the increase in creamy, gooey, cheesy recipes.

This soup is another from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. I have to say that the finished product was the best Cheese and Broccoli soup I've ever had.

1 1/2 pounds broccoli
sea salt and ground pepper
3 Tbs. butter
1 onion
1 celery stalk
1/2 pound of diced potatoes, peeled unless organic 
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. marjoram, 1 bay leaf, 1 pinch of dried thyme
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 cup cup cream
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
rye or whole wheat bread, toasted

1. Chop the broccoli trees. Cook the florets in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain and reserve the liquid. Rinse broccoli  florets under cool water and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add onion, potato, celery, broccoli stems, garlic, herbs, and cayenne pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 tsp. salt, flour, and 3 cups of reserved water from the broccoli (saving any extra). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until the potato is tender (about 10-12 minutes). Add cream and/or additional broccoli water to thin the soup. During the last few minutes, add the florets.
3. Remove the bay leaf, puree the soup, and return it to the pot. Stir in the mustard, and add pepper and salt to taste. Just before serving, add the cheese. Do not allow the cheese to boil.  Serve with toast.

We melted a slice of mild sheep cheese on our toast...because we didn't think we had enough cheese yet this week! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creamy, Cheesy Goodness: Homemade Mac 'n' Cheese

Mac 'n' cheese with Sriracha Sauce
Mac 'n' cheese is one of those foods ~ everyone loves it, we all know it's not going to make us skinnier or provide us with any super-food vitamins, but we crave and devour it anyway. Making it from scratch can make it a bit healthier, maybe not less laden with calories, but with less chemicals and more nutrients than the box brands at the store.

Andy created his own special version yesterday. It's creamy, cheesy, and there are even some greens included to make us feel good about ourselves. His claims for this recipe are that most of the ingredients are flexible and that this could be created in an endless amount of ways.

I personally liked how this specific combination tasted, which is why I'm excited to be encapsulating the recipe onto this blog for future reference.

Mac 'n' Cheese:
1 lb. of shell pasta
1/2 cup of flour
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of butter
3 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you so desire)
1.5 cups of 2% milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 bunch of chopped yukina savoy (or other green)
1 cup bread crumbs
cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta al dente.
2. Drain the pasta, run under cool water, and save until later.
3. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add chopped onion and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent (3-5  minutes).
4. Add flour, a few spoons at a time, to make a roux.
5. Add broth until mixture becomes smooth and creamy.
6. Simmer for a few minutes.
7.Slowly add milk and cheese. Stir and cook until cheese is melted, but not boiling.
8. Stir in pasta and greens. Add cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper, if desired.
9. Put mixture into 13x9 baking dish. Cover with breadcrumbs.
10. Cook at 350 for 5-10 minutes, until breadcrumbs appear toasted.

Serve! This also would freeze well for later use. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

We dug into the freezer for roasted red peppers for the first time this year today. We have plenty of fresh vegetables (carrots, radishes, broccoli, baby turnips, and cauliflower) that need to be eaten ASAP. The perfect fix? A yummy bowl of roasted red pepper hummus!
     I got the basis for this recipe from a cookbook that I bought in Ireland a few years back entitled The Irish Farmers' Market Cookbook. Ireland and hummus? Yes! The book is written by Clodagh McKenna, who lives by and cooks with a locavore philosophy. I'm smitten with the book's colorful photos, with its recipes' usage of local Irish ingredients (most of which are plentiful here in WISCO as well), and with its occasional difference in food vocabulary (croquettes for cucumbers, for example).

My version of this recipe:
2 roasted red peppers
25 oz. of garbanzo beans (I used canned this time.)
4 fl. oz. of olive oil
1 Tbs of tahini (optional)
4 garlic cloves
4 Tbs. of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the garlic cloves and the roasted red peppers in your food processor. Process until finely chopped.
2. Add the chickpeas. Process until well-blended.
3. Add the lemon juice and tahini.
4. Add the olive oil, a little at a time, until desired consistency.
5. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh veggies, pita chips, crackers, or bread.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Therapy in the Kitchen: Squash and Pear Soup, plus Plout-Apple Crisp

Life has been a roller coaster lately, and so dining out has been plentiful as have homemade goodies baked for us by our friends. Today we realized our refrigerator was busting with food, ready to vomit out bags of veggies and fruit at its first opening. Our little feather-footed Bantam, Ani, died this morning, and so, we decided to go to therapy ~ cooking together, side-by-side, in perfect matrimonial harmony in the kitchen, whipping up soup for the freezer, applesauce for later this winter, and freezing veggies we realized we wouldn't get to eating fresh this week. Oh - and we added to our dessert collection ~ a fresh pluot and apple crisp.

Below, I have included the recipes for a Squash Pear Soup and our Pluot and Apple Crisp. 

Squash Pear Soup
 (we have adapted this from Deborah Madison's recipe in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen.)

5 cups of squash
5 pears
3 Tbs. of butter
10 cups of vegetable stock
1 medium onion
1/2 cup of good, white wine
2 inches of ginger, grated
a generous pinch of cinnamon

1. Cut the squash in half. Remove and save the seeds and guts.  Roast the halved squash and peeled pears at 425 degrees on a baking dish or roasting pan. If squash are dry, add a bit of water to the pan. Brush with oil and season with salt. Bake for about 1 hour. You may have to turn the pieces over once or twice.
2. Once the squash is roasted, scrape off the skin and add it to saved seeds and guts.Also, reserve the liquid in the roasting pan.
Making stock
3. To make a stock, bring the 10 cups of water to a boil. Add the seeds, guts, and skin. Add the ginger and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover for 20 to 25 minutes. Strain and save liquid.
4. Then, melt the butter in your soup pot. Add the onion and saute over medium-low for about 10 minutes. Add the pears, squash, stock, and the reserved liquid from the roasting pan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Puree all when finished.

We froze ours, but it's delicious right off the stove as well!

Nutrition Facts
cup servings
Squash and pear soup
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat2.9g
      Saturated Fat1.4g
      Trans Fat0g
      Dietary Fiber4.2g
Vitamin A 121%Vitamin C 27%
Calcium    6%Iron 5%
Plout and Apple Crisp
4 apples, sliced
8 pluots, diced
6 Tbs. brown sugar
3/4 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbs. oats
4 Tbs. coconut (optional)
6 Tbs. butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

1.  Put the apples and 1/2 of the sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until apples are soft.
2. Put the pluots in the baking dish. Then, add the apples.
3. Combine the flour, cinnamon, oats, butter, and the rest of the sugar. Blend until the mixture is crumbly.
4. Put the mixture over the apples. Then, sprinkle the brown sugar and coconut on top.
5. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. To be safe, put the baking dish on top of foil or a cookie sheet in case the fruit spills over.

Oh~ and no fall-cooking day would be complete without applesauce! We froze a few bags of that too!
Ready to cook down.

Glorious Garlic: Planting 2010

On the 20th, Andy tilled up our "dump garden". Our future plans for this plot of yard involve lots and lots of garlic. For the past two years, we planted these vampire-repelling bulbs in our large garden, so it's time to rotate crops. Plus, the dump garden is always open for whatever we feel needs to be there. This is an experiment in some ways because the soil in the dump garden is not garlic-friendly. It is a bit rocky, and typically, garlic grows best in rockless soil. Year by year, we're trying to get the soil in the dump garden to be more fertile and more garden-friendly.

Garlic is a pretty amazing herb (yes, it's an herb! Who knew!?). Most know it is an antioxidant, but it also boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and helps prevent ulcers. It is rich in, "Calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamin B-1, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-3, vitamin C, and zinc" (source). 

This year, we planted 45 cloves, which we had collected from Farmers' Markets and from our own garden. We chose large cloves because those will produce the biggest heads and the biggest cloves next year. We use garlic in nearly every dish, and peeling tiny ones can be so tedious. I love me some big cloves. This is our fourth year planting garlic, so we're feeling pretty good about the process: till up the soil, plant them 1-2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart, cover with 3-5 inches of mulch (leaves, hay, grass clippings), and wait for the spring to see tiny little green shoots.

The hope is that the leaves we used as mulch will help to condition the soil for future years. We meant to add compost to the soil, but Andy was too far into his element to remember. Oops! I guess this will be our variable year to see if the compost ever made a difference...although, I suppose we switched garden locations, so there are quite a few variables this year! An added excitement to our new planting is that garlic can keep away various insects, such as Japanese beetles, snails, root maggots, carrot root flies, and codling moths (source). Last year, we had an infestation of insects up at the dump garden, so we'll see if the garlic can meet expectations.

Here are some pics from Garlic Planting 2010:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Graze Resturant: A Pub Serving Local Food, Oh My!

This is my "official" review of Graze Restaurant in Madison: We ate there last night after seeing WICKED at the Overture Center.

Madison jumped on the local food movement long ago, but to my knowledge Graze is the first pub that serves all locally grown food (except for the oysters which are from Maine and various fish, including a "Sustainable Catch"). According to their website,

          "The idea for Graze came from Chef Tory’s love of comfort foods. Inspired by the New York  gastropub scene, the menus feature a range of classics executed on a higher level than traditional pub food. We chose the name Graze because grass-fed animals and rotational grazing are important to us. Also, we want the menu to inspire our guests to do just that: graze. There’ll always be a variety of dishes and small plates to choose from – the kind of stuff chefs and foodies love to eat."

The atmosphere is hip, very minimalist and roomy. Andy and I got there around 5, when it opens to serve dinner, on a Saturday evening. We had no problem getting a seat, though by the time we left, the place was pretty full.

On the menu, there is an array of elegantly simple starters and sharers including such comfort foods as a plate of various local pickles, a homemade dish of mac 'n' cheese to share, roasted bone marrow, and a plate of meat and cheese with soft bread. The back of the menu lists the local farms from which each food comes. We opted for the Sassy Cow Cheese Curds, which were the best cheese curds either of us has ever consumed!

Dinner entrees are again, simple in nature, but exquisitely prepared. My husband had a burger made with locally-sourced meat. His side of french fries tasted like a delicacy. Not greasy, just yummy. I had a beet salad, which was delicate and delicious.

The drinks were also, for the most part, local. The beer list was comprised of Wisconsin Brews; they even had a locally-made cider. Plus, they have a unique and fun house cocktail list, including a personal favorite made of gin, orange juice, and a splash of Cabernet.

My only criticism of the restaurant was the lack of vegetarian items. There were a few; it was not difficult for me to find something to eat, but there are so many local CSAs producing great produce - I was hoping to see more of them featured in dishes, rather than as sidekicks to meat.

With that said, we'll be back. I'll have my salad and eat it too. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Farm Aid: A Musical Celebration of Farm-Fresh Food

On Saturday, October 1st, we spent the day at Miller Park for the 25th  Anniversary Farm Aid Concert. According to Farm Aid's official website, over the years, "Farm Aid has raised more than $37 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture." The non-profit works to keep family farms on their land and to raise an awareness of the loss of family farms as corporations get larger and larger.
A few super cool aspects of Farm Aid in comparison to other concerts:
1. Throughout the day, there is a Homegrown Village which hosts a number of local farmers, organizations involved in the local food movement, and CSAs. Will Allen was there in the Growing Power stand, but we missed seeing him by minutes.

2. The concessions serve local and organic food instead of the usual chemical-laden, mysterious-origin, regular junk. There were veggie hot dogs, local brats, local burgers, and so on. Even the french fries were local and organic. They were serving popped sorghum too!
3. All day long, musicians talk about food issues! Music and like-minded musicians and fans: what could be better?

We were very close, so yes, these are our actual pictures of the day. Here are some of our highlights:
Willie Nelson and Amos Lee
Band of Horses
Jason Mraz ~ Andy took this one for his co-worker, who is a HUGE fan (wink).
Jeff Tweedy of Wilco
Tim Reynolds and Dave Matthews
Neil Young
Norah Jones
A screen shot of John Mellencamp and Dave singing "Homegrown" - Willie Nelson and Neil Young were also a party of the song. 

Farm Aid was better than we anticipated! It was a celebration of farmers and local eating, but also a call to action for change. Farmers are losing their land every day (as many of the musicians noted). It's important, as Neil Young said a number of times to "Read the Label!" Know where your food comes from. Be sure you're eating foods that come directly from nature and from the United States. Large corporations are exploiting the land, the workers, animals, and us, the consumers. Eating locally is more compassionate and kind. This event reinforced all of these principles. We're so glad we went, and we're hoping it's close next year.