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Archive for July, 2010

This is not a recipe post but just a gentle reminder that when it comes to all the bounty of our gardens don’t forget the BBQ!

We cook most of our garden veggies on the outdoor grill.  It doesn’t heat up the house, it is fun to cook outdoors…and it is so very yummy!

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I had a reader email me the other day wanting to know what was the best way to store her produce from the farmer’s market.

Her problem is that it was spoiling at an unusually rapid rate.  She stores it in plastic in her crisper at the bottom of her refrigerator.

Seeing that we are in the midst of summer harvest I wanted to get you input on how you store your fresh fruits and veggies.

Since I have a garden I usually either pick what we need for that meal or if I have a large quantity I freeze, can, or dehydrate it right away so we have very little stored in our frig.

So what method have you found to be the best?  Do you wash then store, store unwashed?  Do you keep it in plastic bags or out? Do you have any secrets for prolonging the life of fresh produce?

Thanks  Kim

(more…)

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homemade ginger ale

In spirit of those of you that have not the taste for alcoholic beverages (hic!) I’m here to share some basic recipes for making soda pop at home! What could be better than a frosty ginger ale to help cool off during these hot summer days? If ginger’s not your thing, how about a lemon-lime soda or an orange-ade? The combination is unlimited so long as your imagination is put to good use. The best part is it’s all homemade so you’re avoiding massive doses of sugar, artificial flavorings, and caffeine.

Do note that some of these recipes contain yeast, and as yeast feeds on sugars it releases alcohol and carbon dioxide as by-products. Because these recipes aren’t aged but a few days, the amount of alcohol is extremely minor. I personally feel comfortable allowing my own daughter to drink beverages made from these recipes without any worry. It should not be enough to cause intoxication for even our small samplers. If, however, you avoid alcohol for personal or medicinal purposes I recommend sticking with the recipes that don’t include yeast.

ginger pulp

Ginger Ale

Mildly sweet and spicy with a hint of lemon

(prepare 3 days prior to drinking)

  • 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 inch portion of ginger club, grated
  • 1 lemon, juiced and grated for zest
  • 1 small piece sassafras root (approximately 1/4 tsp) *optional*
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 gallon water
  1. Boil water. Add all ingredients except yeast and let steep for 2 hours.
  2. Once water is between room temperature and 100F, add yeast and stir.
  3. Cover liquid and let rest for one day.
  4. On the next day, strain liquid with cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
  5. Pour liquid into clean, sterile bottles and close tightly.
  6. Store in cool, dark place for two days.
  7. Chill to stop fermentation and enjoy over ice!

**sassafras contains safrole which has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats when consumed in high doses. You can purchase safrole-free sassafras extract or use the leaves which do not contain safrole if you have concerns.

Lemon Lime Soda 

Like a liquid SweeTart

(prepare 3 days before drinking)

  • 1 lemon, juiced and grated for zest 
  • 2 limes, juiced and grated for zest 
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 gallon + 2 cups water
  1. Boil water and add all ingredients.
  2. Simmer over low for one hour.
  3. Add yeast after water has cooled.
  4. Let rest overnight.
  5. Strain, bottle and cap tightly after one day.
  6. Allow to rest two days before drinking
  7. Chill to stop fermentation, then serve

Summer Refresher

Perfect for a hot day in the garden

  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
  • 1 lime, bruised and sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint or lemon balm
  • 2 liters of carbonated soda water
  • *add fresh aloe or 1 cup aloe water for additional health benefits
  1. Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and cover. Allow fruits to remain in pitcher.
  2. Store in refrigerator and serve when chilled.

soda ingredients

Orange-Ade

Fun for the kids, best prepared over a sink or outdoors

  • 3/4  cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 3-4 oranges, juiced (substitute limes or lemons if desired)
  1. Boil sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Chill syrup until very cold.
  3. Stir in baking soda.
  4. Prepare room for overflow!
  5. Add sugar syrup to iced glasses.
  6. Just before serving, add orange juice to each glass. The citric acid will activate the baking soda. The kids will adore this one!

blackberry cream soda

Fruit Pop

Make with seasonal fruit

  • 2 cups fresh fruit such as strawberries (rasp-, black-, blue-, huckle-, goose-…), peaches, pineapple, or grapes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 liters carbonated soda water
  1. Boil water, sugar, and fruit to make a syrup.
  2. Strain skins and seeds through cheesecloth or a mesh strainer.
  3. Allow to cool in refrigerator.
  4. Pour syrup over ice, then top with soda.
  5. For a fun twist, add 2 Tbsp half & half and top with whipped cream.

Vanilla Cream

For those that like it smooth

  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • 8 oz carbonated soda water
  1. In a tall glass, mix extracts, sugar, and cream until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add ice and stir in soda water.

 

As you can see, the recipes are limitless. Combine different fruits to make a beverage that you enjoy. Don’t forget to top of your soda with a nice garnish made from fresh fruit, basil, mint, or watercress.

Jennifer can be found blarging at Unearthing This Life where she rambles about her daily doings, her crazy chickens, and her quirky family.

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I love love love receiving and giving handmade/homemade gifts. There’s nothing more wonderful than the beauty of something that someone took the time and the effort to make for me. I also love taking the time to think of the perfect gift to make for someone else. With my family we celebrate “homemade” holidays. My sister often will give me jams/jellies or frozen corn for the holidays. Every time Mr Chiots and I enjoy some corn with our meals we are very appreciative of the time she spent doing this for us. My mom also gives jams and jellies which Mr Chiots LOVES on toast and freshly baked bread. This past year my nieces & nephew made me these wonderful stepping stones for my garden. Normally I’m not a garden ornament kind of person, but these are truly lovely and I love seeing them peeking out from between the plants.

I also love to make gifts. I know that I can make something that’s personalized to the tastes of my friends and family. This past year for Christmas I made our best friends a Frand Lloyd Wright mission style tree skirt to go with their mission inspired home. They have always had a very country kind of quilted tree skirt that they got for their wedding and I knew they would love something a little more in tune with their grown-up tastes. After searching around I found an image of an octagonal stained glass lamp that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for one of his clients. I knew it would be a perfect design for a tree skirt. I bought some velvet and some ribbon and set to work.

I even customized the tag so they would know where the design came from. They loved the gift and they love knowing that it’s a one of a kind piece that fits beautifully into their lovely home. I always like to include a tag that lets people know the gift was handmade. I do this to hopefully inspire them to make homemade gifts as well, and nothing sets off a homemade gift like a beautiful thoughtful card explaining the gift.

This past year for Christmas I made doll bedding for my nieces doll bed (which my sister found a garage sale for a few dollars and was giving them for Christmas). Mr Chiots even got involved by knitting little matching afghans for their doll beds. He learned to knit just for this project. They certainly loved seeing the photo of their uncle Brian knitting!

Our little nephew Orin requested a cape, and I knew right away that a store bought one would not fit his personality. So a reversible custom cape was made complete with wristlets and a mask to disguise himself. I don’t know if his reaction would have been as good had his cape not had his name on it. My sister said the next morning he was up early running around in his cape, and nothing else.



Now’s the time of year to start thinking about your homemade Christmas gifts. When you’re making homemade gifts you sometimes need a little extra time to come up with ideas and time to make them. I’ve started working on a few of mine already and I’m still trying to come up with good ideas for others. There’s nothing worse than realizing two weeks before Christmas that you haven’t thought of anything to make yet for a specific person. (I think one of Kim’s purses made from a sweater would be a great gift idea)

Do you appreciate handmade/homemade gifts? Do you have a favorite handmade/homemade gift you’ve recieved?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Simple, Green, Frugal, Co-op, and you can follow me on Twitter.

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I love old books…the yellowed pages, the stained covers, the old book smell.  There is something about an old book with out of date writing style and pictures of people from long ago that I just adore!

My favorite bookstore to hunt for old books is Powell’s Books.  If you old book obsessed then Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon is truly a spiritual experience,  if there is a bookstore in heaven it will be Powell’s!  A few years ago when I was wandering its maze of aisles I found myself in the gardening section…ok I admit that is usually where I end up!  I spotted among the new and shiny garden books, with their covers of perfect cabbage roses and sophisticated Japanese maples,  this plain water stained cucumber green, enormous but squat book. It had  nothing on the cover but the words “The Complete Book of Composting by J.I. Rodale and Staff”  My first thought is how in the world could there ever be over 1000 pages worth of information on just composting?  My second thought is darn this is one ugly book!  I flipped to the Introduction page,

“Compost is the core, the essential foundation of natural gardening and farming.  It is the heart of the organic concept”

Across the page was written “SIXTH PRINTING-DECEMBER 1969″.

I didn’t know that there even was an “organic concept” in 1969!  Next I checked out the Table of Contents, here are just a few of its 27 chapters:

The History Of Compost,   The Basics of Compost,   Composting Methods For The Gardener,   Applying Compost On The Farm,  The Earthworm’s Role In Composting, Personal Experiences,   Compost And The Health Of Animals and Man,   Humus-The End Product, and even Compost And The Law

I was hooked, its old, its about composting, and not just a superficial look at composting either but a 27 chapter 1000 page behemoth of composting . With its great old black and white pictures and price tag of only $8.95 how could I resist?

After owning this for years and referring to it often I can say that anyone who has either an old book, or compost fetish that this is a great addition to your library…if you can find it!

Compostbook1

Never judge a book by its cover!

Compostbook2

You’ve got to love a woman who composts in a dress with her hair done up!  Very attractive compost bin.

Compostbook3

I thought this was a novel idea.  A compost bin with a cement floor that slopes down to grooves that funnel the rain water turned ‘compost tea’ in sunken cans in the ground.  With the amount of rain we get around here I would need a couple of 5 gallon buckets instead of little coffee cans!

So do you collect old books?  How about old garden tools?  Maybe even great old farm signs…

Kim can also be found at the inadvertent farmer where she raises organic fruits, veggies, critters, kids, and… a camel!

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Most of us are in the full swing of summer. That means the weather’s hot and the gardens are growing like crazy. Blooms are everywhere and the birds and bees are busy as can be. Here are a few of the things that are blooming in our gardens.

***

Here at Chiot’s Run I love flowers, I have large front foundation borders filled with a mix of flowers, fruiting shrubs, and vegetables. Each year they get bigger and bigger and I expand them out taking over even more lawn.

Most of the flowers in my gardens are beneficial flower for the birds and the bees. I have a lot of herbs and a lot of native plants that provide pollen and nectar for the bees and herbs for my teas, like this anise hyssop.

Of course some flowers are planted simply for their intrigue, like this ‘The Watchman’ Hollyhock.

***

It’s Jennifer! Down here it’s been hot for a while. These are the Dog Days. Grass starts to brown and blossoms wilt. Rainy days, when they arrive, bring a much needed respite from Summer’s heat.

sunflowers by the Kid

Although we still have blossoms it seems their colors reflect the warmth that is covering much of the country.
cosmos

We keep what we can alive without supplemental watering. That means a lot of drought-resistant plants and natives.

gold

Our water barrels are reserved for our edibles.

pumpkin blossom

and that’s okay by me. I’d rather focus on staying cool than do extra outdoor work in this heat!

***

Kim here...I don’t usually have many blooms other than those that lead to edibles.  But due to a funeral and a fundraiser at my house I have many ornamental  flowers blooming….along the front walk, on the back patio.  If I’m not careful I could make a yearly habit of adorning my house with such lovely blooms!

But a lovely as the purposely planted blooms are…

They can never be as lovely as natures own floral arraignments!

What’s blooming in your garden right now?

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Winemaking: Dandelion

dandelion

If you’re like me, you enjoy seeing the happy yellow flowers of dandelions blooming in your yard. They bring back memories of childhood games, of rubbing pollen on my chin and nose. I’ve also come to adore dandelion greens in my salad and still believe that wishes will come true when dandelion seeds float through the air.

Perhaps one of those wishes was to give me more dandelion blossoms – if so, it definitely came true this year!

Next year when spring is closing in but when winter still has us in it’s grasp, I’ll be enjoying a glass of spring to get me through those last chilly days. Here is the recipe I’m using this year. Several online friends shared their recipes and I picked out some of my favorite bits, making my own conglomeration. I froze my dandelion heads, keeping them in the freezer until I had accumulated enough to make a large batch of wine.

frozen dandelion

Dandelion Wine

  • 3 cups packed dandelion flower petals – remove as much green as possible.
  • 1 medium club ginger, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 cups boiled, chlorine-free water
  • juice and zest of two oranges
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 t. yeast
  • campden tablets

ginger with orange

  1. Sterilize all equipment with boiling water. If you purchased campden tablets you can crush one per gallon of water to ensure sterilization.
  2. Pour boiling water and campden tablet (optional) over flower petals, sugar, and ginger slices.
  3. Allow to cool to room temperature then add citrus juices and zest as well as yeast.
  4. Let steep 8 hours or overnight.
  5. Strain solids from liquid with strainer or cheesecloth, then siphon into clean, sterilized carboy, watercube, or bottle. Close container with airlock or cotton stuffed balloon.
  6. Allow to ferment for about 1-2 months. When fermentation stops (the wine will stop bubbling if using an airlock, or the balloon will collapse), sample the wine to sweeten if necessary. Siphon wine into two sterile 750ml bottles and cork.
  7. Let the wine age for another 3 months before drinking, although it should be better if it ages at least another 6 months.

Here are some recommended equipment and guidelines for brewing wine at home. Also, be sure to reference the other wine recipes I’ve shared: blackberry and plum.

dandelion wine

Country Wine: Equipment and Ingredients

It is possible to make wine with minimum equipment and purchases. The bare necessities (in my humble experience) that you’ll want include:

  • Food-grade bucket, preferably 5-gallon. Check with a local bakery or deli.
  • A large strainer or sieve plus some cheesecloth.
  • About 4-5 feet of food-grade tubing. Look in the plumbing section of a hardware store.
  • Gallon-sized glass carboys or 5-gallon collapsible water cubes. Carboys can be saved from juice purchases. The water cubes are fantastic for making odd-sized batches of wine and can be found at camping supply stores.
  • Balloons and cotton balls, or  airlocks.
  • Yeast. You can use regular baking yeast, but if you want a better flavor you can opt for different “wine” strains of yeast found at winemaking/brewing stores. I’ve used Montrachet as it’s recommended to balance the flavors of berry wines.
  • Bottles and Corks. I save all my bottles from other purchases like wine, vinegar, juice, and so on. I purchased “mushroom” corks since they don’t require a tool to insert them into the bottles.

Optional:

  • Campden tablets to sterilize equipment, remove stray yeast and bacteria (highly recommended unless you have problems with sulfites).
  • Tannin, citric acid, or Earle Grey tea for flavor balance in sweeter wines.
  • Extra sugar or wine conditioner to sweeten and brighten finished wine.
  • Pectic acid for removing extra pectin and “clarify” wine.
  • Yeast nutrient to feed yeast. Recipes without nutrient require extra sugar.

You can purchase all of these items from a wine and beer making supplier or spend a little more energy and locate many things locally. I purchased my airlock, water cube, yeast, campden tablets, and corks from E.C. Kraus. for less than $50. The rest I found locally or did without.

*****

Do you brew anything at home?

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life trying to take each day as it comes.

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