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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.