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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rhubarb Soda

Have you seen those new soda-making kitchen appliances?  Have you thought to yourself, "Maybe I should get one of those?" Well, if yes, you should! Go ahead! It's so worth it. We haven't bought carbonated water or soda since getting ours for Christmas, and our recycling bin has been much emptier. Plus, you can use whatever fruit you have on hand to make seasonal, flavored sodas. The SodaStream is a win-win for sure.

Tonight, we made a simple rhubarb syrup and then added it to the carbonated water we made with our soda-maker.

Here's how:
Bring equal parts rhubarb juice and sugar to a boil. So, for example, we had three cups rhubarb juice (we used a juicer, but a food processor would work too - just drain the juice off), so we added three cups sugar. Save and refrigerate. Add desired amount to your homemade carbonated water. We don't like our soda too sweet, so we added a few tablespoons to one liter.

So refreshing and yummy!

We have a quart of rhubarb syrup left....oh, the possibilities! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Big Happy Coop

Quite easily, our little peepers have moved out of the house. We, the human parents, are officially empty-nesting, while the teens are out having a ball in the spring time living it up inside their brand-new big run. No looking back, no calling home, no remorse or sadness. Leaving the confines and safety of the big house came to them as easily as drinking a large glass of wine comes to me.

Nope. The chickies have adapted quite well to their orange and pink coop, and they seem to love their new dormies too.
We do live right next door, but you'd think they'd miss us...a little!?

Hanging with the fluffy-haired Janis. With hair like that, will she warp their young minds?
On Friday, the 13th (goodness gracious!), we left the awkward adolescents out past dark and then simply put them in the coop right after Spinderella and Janis had gone in to roost. The next morning, they all sauntered out and have enjoyed their freedom ever since. Sure, when we visit, they give us the obligatory affection we seek, but for the most part, these chickies are doing pretty well without their parents. We convinced ourselves they'd need us to intervene as they navigated the big, old world of strangers, but nope - that's gone well too. We ran out to protect them from the first day's storm, but they had managed that without us as well. It appears they've grown up.

We're happy they're doing well even though we miss their little "Night, night" sounds. We knew we'd have to let go someday; we just didn't think they'd be so casual about it!

One of the big kids showing the newbies how it's done.

Pretending to care that I'm about to visit.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Need another ramp recipe? We've got one!...Pickled ramps

If you've been following us lately, you've realized we're in love with ramps. We've blogged about ramp scrambles, ramp lasagna, Wisconsin sushi (made with ramps), and now, up today: pickled ramp bulbs! I guess we just can't bear the thought of eleven more months without the taste of these deliciously wild leeks.

This is our first attempt at pickling the little buggers, so we can't attest to the taste of them quite yet. With that said, pickled ramp recipes are abundant on the Internet and in recipe books, so someone out there thinks they're pretty amazing. If you've tried them or end up making them, let us know what you think.

Here's the recipe (adapted from Seasonal Chef) we used:

3 bunches of ramps, bulbs separated
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup bottled water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon coriander seed, mustard seed, black peppercorns, fennel seed
1 dried hot chili pepper

1. Clean white bulbs. Go ahead and save stems and leaves for Wisconsin sushi or another recipe. You can also freeze them! 
2.  Bring white wine vinegar, water, sugar and brown sugar to a boil for 1 minute. Add dried spices and remove from the heat after 1 minute.
4. Blanch ramp bottoms in heavily salted water for 15 seconds. Drain and cool quickly in ice water.
5. Pour brine over ramps. Let them sit in the fridge for 3-5 days before eating them. Or process them for 10 minutes in a water bath for later use. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Creamy Ramp Lasagna

When's the last time that you threw together a dinner so satisfying that days later you catch yourself reminiscing about the taste and daydreaming about the next time you'll partake in it?  Mine was last Saturday evening. On the menu: ramp lasagna. Creamy layers of mushrooms, ramps, and spinach. Perfectly baked lasagna noodles. Cheese. Cheese. Cheese. Need I say more? This recipe is one for the books, maybe even one for a vegetarian or local eating competition or two. It's that delicious! It was a random operation, so the amounts are flexible and not definite.

8 oz mushrooms
8 oz fresh or frozen spinach
1-2 bunches off Ramps
fresh farmers cheese or Ricotta cheese
blend of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
bechamel sauce
lasagna noodles

Make layers of sauce, noodles, farmer cheese, mushrooms, spinach, ramps, and mozzarella/parm blend.
repeat layers until pan is full. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until cheese on top is brown.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The New Backyard Market Member

We have a new member at the Backyard Market. Franklin, the puppy, joined our residence last Tuesday quite randomly. We've discussed adopting a big doggie for some time now, but always hesitated due to the safety and comfort of the kitty-cats and the chickens -- not to mention the commitment. Then, I saw a poster at work for boxer/ridgeback mixes. A colleague's sister had adopted a dog from the Humane Society only to later find out she was pregnant. The mama had ten rambunctious, drooling babies, so this loving owner (now to 11 dogs!) was desperate to find the little ones safe, loving homes. I couldn't resist. I knew Andy would be smitten the second he saw the puppies, and I had no question that although I've always considered myself a cat person, I could quickly become an equal opportunity pet owner.

Franklin has changed things around here! The kitties are unsure of what is up. The chickens have much stricter times for free ranging. We're hoping our little animal kingdom will find harmony as Frankie learns limits, rules, and some obedience commands. For now, his puppiness is enough to get him out of trouble and endlessly entertain us. And, I have to admit, I can't stop kissing those kissable cheeks.

Wisconsin Sushi

Ramp season only lasts 4-5 weeks, so we're savoring every single one of these garlicky-oniony bulbs and their luscious green leaves. At the Farmer's Market last weekend, Harmony Valley customers, members, and workers alike mentioned Wisconsin sushi: WI cheese curds or other WI cheese wrapped in ramp leaves. We had to try it that night. More delicious than you're imagining right now, I am sure! Try it soon! Tragically, this may be the last week of 2011 for ramps.

In the pic below, we used Dream Farm Italian spiced goat cheese. That was 100% amazing!  Later in the week, on a picnic blanket in the yard, we enjoyed the sun while tearing off ramp leaves and wrapping them around cheese curds. Also, scrumptious. And the primitiveness of the tearing and wrapping outdoors somehow added to the taste.