Grains from the garden!

January 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last April, J attended an intensive weekend workshop in Willits, California, on the Grow Biointensive method of gardening. He came home, eyes glittering, and declared, “We have to grow grains.”

We had already planted our cereal rye, dreaming of amber waves of grain and loaves of homemade bread.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We didn’t count on the birds eating most of our grain heads. We managed to salvage a handful of rye stalks with grain still intact.P1050376 J let them dry out for several months. Then the other day, he decided it was time to do something with the dried grain. He recruited his usual helper for the project.

Here they are threshing the grain.P1050368

The threshing separates the the grain part from the chaff. Below is a pile of grain and chaff, no longer connected, but still all mixed together.P1050378

Little m especially enjoyed the winnowing part. As she dropped handfuls of the stuff in front of a fan, the heavy grain would drop onto the tray below, the lighter chaff blowing past and onto the floor. Very messy and very fun.P1050390

From our efforts, we now have a small pile of rye grain. Not even close the amount we would need to make a loaf of bread.P1050402

We’re going to plant that pile of cereal rye in the next growing season. Hopefully we’ll get better at the growing process. I’m still dreaming of a homemade loaf of bread made from grain grown in our own backyard!

Drying parsley!

December 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Our parsley patch is a bit overrun these days. My cousin Jenn gave me a small packet of maybe 10 parsley seeds. Instead of putting them in the little pot they came with, I threw them into one of our planter boxes. After some negligence, they began to grow bushy and wild, choking out the green onions! Wow! What could I do with all that parsley? I took a big cutting to get the planter box under control.

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After washing and patting dry my bushy green bouquet, I tore leaves from stems, and little m helped me lay them on the dehydrator’s drying trays.

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The drying process took about half the day. Once the leaves were brittle and dry, I poured them onto a chopping board, chopping them with a knife and crunching them with my fingers.P1030071

I’m sure the parsley plants will quickly grow back what they lost on the chopping block, so I’ll have to do this again in a couple months. So far we’ve used the flakes in soups and on roasted potatoes. Yum! Now I’m curious about drying other herbs….

From playdough to pasta

July 11, 2012 § 13 Comments

Little m and I have a little time each day when it’s just us. With J at work, and O down for his nap, we sneak off to her room to hang before her quiet time. During one of these times, she wanted to play with playdough. I opened up this cool tool her auntie Jenn passed us. You squeeze the playdough through different dies to make noodles. So simple and so fun. To little m’s delight, we made noodles of all different shapes, widths, and colors, carefully chopped them, and put them on plastic plates to serve at our restaurant, which m named “Bun Mee.”

While we were playing, the wheels in my head were churning. Why make fake noodles, when we can be making dinner! Let’s put this effort to good use and make some real pasta! I found a demo on youtube for making homemade pasta, and m and I watched it together, fascinated. When J came home, I explained what we wanted to do. He got onto eBay and secured us a pasta machine of our very own.

Little m is hilarious – she remembers so many details from the youtube video. We made our first linguine noodles, and both of us had a grand old time. The only issue for us was having to take turns using the machine.

Cranking the dough through the pasta machine, changing the settings to make the dough thinner and thinner, and passing the dough through the cutter, are all fabulous 4-year-old activities.

We also made some green pasta noodles, using our garden’s spinach, kale, and chard, chopped super-fine and added to the dough. Thumbs way up.

It has been so fun watching little m learn and enjoy things like making pasta. She loves making real and meaningful contributions to our household. It’s super cool to see.

Blogging award and summerfruit crisp!

July 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

Lately, it has been more difficult to find pockets of time to create things – I haven’t sewn or knit in awhile. And it’s a bit harder to be creative when I am folding the laundry or changing a diaper. But the one place where I can let out my creative energy has been the kitchen! Who knew? I was never big into cooking. During my teaching years, I hardly cooked at all. J made our dinners, and if he wasn’t home, I’d survive on buttered popcorn and cereal. Now that I’m home with my two littles, I have mostly taken over dinner duty, and actually enjoy (sometimes) making food. As with other things in my life that are homemade, I enjoy the process, but what I really love is seeing what I can do myself.

My friend Lauren’s beautiful vegan food blog One Happy Table has been an inspiration in this whole process. Her ideas, photos, and recipes have caused me to start jotting down new dinners I want to try. Seriously, you have to check it out. I mean, who knew you could make your own ravioli? YOU CAN!

She also nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. I’m honored!

Anyway, a small pile of beautiful ripe white nectarines from a recent fruit-picking trip seemed the perfect opportunity to try out Lauren’s Easy Summerfruit Crisp.

Simple. Fast. Fruit + cupboard ingredients. Definitely a win! I did it with regular butter. Love.

Out of the garden and into the pesto!

June 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

I finished reading Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food. It has caused me to think more about the importance of whole foods and getting raw veggies into the family diet.

The kale plants with put in the ground in the fall have been our most steady producers. I needed to find more ways to get these super vegetables into our diets. We already were doing kale chips, and a kale leaf or two in smoothies.

I found this site after a quick search. A simple kale walnut pesto. Exactly what I was looking for! I already had toasted walnuts (little o loves to snack on them) and garlic.

Here’s the how-to.

Harvest enough leaves to get 3 cups of kale, chopped.

Break out the food processor. Toss in a single peeled garlic clove and mince it up. Add in 1/2 cup toasted walnuts and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Add in the kale. More blending.

3/4 c olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. More blending.

I also followed my friend Michelle’s advice and froze some into cubes for a future meal. 

Seriously delicious and super easy to make. It’s great tossed with pasta and sun-dried tomatoes, or spread on crackers or sourdough.

Let me know if you get a chance to make some yourself! Apparently you can make pesto out of any greens and any nuts. Looking forward to some different variations based on the season and the garden’s yield.

Making breakfast cereal: granola and bran flakes

May 21, 2012 § 6 Comments

Someone recently mentioned that J and I seem to be getting crunchier over the years. I like that description. On the topic of crunchy, I was wondering if anyone makes their own breakfast cereals. I put the question out to facebook, and my friend Helen passed me this great granola recipe from her blog. Another friend emailed me his granola recipe as well. I took a little from both and made my first granola. Yum!

My favorite sweet indulgence lately has been homemade yogurt with a swirl of apricot jam and granola sprinkled over the top. Unbelievable luxury.

I also found this site, which made me to want to make my own bran flakes. Who knew you could do that? I purchased all of the ingredients at my favorite cooperative grocery store, Rainbow.

The dough is made from almond flour, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, and water.

There is something so nice about knowing what has gone into my food.

The tough part was rolling out the sticky dough nice and flat on my Silpats. The fun part was crumbling the giant bran flake into baby bran flakes.

At the end of it all, I had a pile of bran flakes that looked small enough to devour in one sitting. Hmmmm. Worth it? I took a crunch – delicious. A project like this is such a creative outlet for me, so I would say it was a definite win!

The kids love both the granola and the bran flakes. Anyone know how to make Cheerios?

Making yogurt in the thermal pot

April 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

My kids eat a whole lot of yogurt. It’s the first snack food I pass them when we are home.

I had heard of people making yogurt themselves, and wanted to try it out. There were some great directions on this blog.  Genius! Here’s what I did:

Measure out some milk.  I poured out two quarts.

Heat milk to 180 degrees. It will look bubbly. When it hits 180 degrees, turn off the stove, and let the milk cool to 110 degrees. This part was the most difficult for me – all that waiting!

Scoop out half of a cup of the milk, and stir in a small bit of good yogurt that contains live and active cultures. I used 1 Tbls of Trader Joe’s Organic European-Style yogurt.

Mix the milk-starter mixture in with the rest of the milk. Insulate it. I use my Thermal pot.

Leave it overnight for at least 6 hours. I usually let mine sit for closer to 12 hours.

It’s tangy and delicious mixed with a little jam or fruit. Mmmmm. I’ve done this several times now, and I use yogurt from the previous batch as my starter each time.

Side note: J’s parents purchased this wonderful Thermal pot for us, and we love it.  It is a wonderful alternative to a Crock Pot, and doesn’t need to be plugged in. We make soup by adding ingredients, bringing it to a boil, and then putting it in the thermal pot to cook all day. The soups come out delicious and fresh-tasting. Highly recommend. And now it’s our yogurt-making pot as well!

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