Friday, December 19, 2008

Let it Snow and Snow and Snow...

They never close the schools in Madison. Last year it happened for the first time in about 10 years. This year they've already closed twice! It started last night around midnight and it's still going as of 9 am this morning. They say it's snowing between 1-3 inches per hour and we should accumulate about 12 inches before it's all done. The photos are out the back door of our the bottom one you can see at least one foot of snow on top of the crock on the deck. The Farmer's Almanac predicts 20% more snow this winter than last winter, which was an all time record for us, so we've got the shovels ready and we're bundled up watching it snow and blow. The holiday packages are mailed and the cards addressed and ready to go out, so I guess we'll bake today. Beast is already in the kitchen eagerly awaiting the next project. I think it will be fresh baked soft pretzels today, with a post to come with photos, details and a recipe on the next Blog.
In the meanwhile, Happy Holidays and Let It Snow!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Santa Beast Says...

Ho Ho Ho...I found the cookies! Mom thought she hid the ones that didn't go out in the mail, but I found them and boy are they good! Patience really is a virtue--tee hee
We've been busy in the kitchen for the last week baking cookies (eating crumbs that drop of the floor and I'm the first kitty there); making cranberry chutney (the things humans eat!) and baking pizza and bread and cooking lamb--that smells like some real food-meow! Here's a picture of our Cranberry Chutney (before and after cooking) and a recipe too. It goes great with poultry or pork, but is also good as a side condiment or slathered on a sandwich for a sweet-savory taste. Or, try it with baked brie and crackers...lip smacking good! And, this recipe has no sugar so it's safe for people with diabetes or other sugar concerns.

Lisa's Cranberry Chutney
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
4 oz fresh or dried figs, chopped coarsely
1 navel orange, zested, peeled and chopped coarsely
zest from orange
1-1/2 cups Agave Nectar (you can use sugar if preferred)
5 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/8 cup sherry
1/8 cup port wine
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (I keep grated ginger in the freezer
so it's always on hand when I need some for a recipe)
1/8 tsp allspice
Combine ingredients in a large stainless-steel or other non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook at a low boil for about 30-40 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and the liquid is syrupy. If you are going to process for storing, then proceed with processing, otherwise, cool and store in refrigerator. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

That's Isaac Laughing--he's 1!

My how time flies...the past few weeks have been busy, which is why I haven't been in Beast's Kitchen. And he's a little crazy about it too--every time I open the doors to the kitchen he flies into the room and jumps immediately on top of the dishwasher to watch what's going on.
For Thanksgiving weekend we went to visit Tim's Grandson, Isaac, who turned 1 year old on the 21st of November. We had fun playing with him and making him laugh, and wearing him out too. It won't be long and Isaac will have a little sister to burn up energy with. Of course it will take her a while to be fun for him, but I suspect that he'll be charmed with her. Best wishes with the pregnancy, Angela and Rich!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Wow! How time flies...I had several entries planned for Beast's Kitchen in the past week but somehow didn't get to any of them. In any case, this one is just in time for your holiday meal planning...
Even those who "hate" Brussels Sprouts will love these! And talk about really don't even have to know how to cook to make these :)
Start with 1 lb Brussels Sprouts, as local and organic as possible...rinse them and remove any loose outer leaves. Cut them into quarters, lengthwise, then toss in a bowl with 1-2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Next, heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour in 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Add Brussels Sprouts and cover. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. This is where your stove top temperature and the size of your pan will make a difference in the cooking time. You don't want the heat too high during this phase or the sprouts will brown too early. You also want a large enough pan that they are in one layer and not too crowded. When you can easily pierce with a fork, not mutilate, then remove the lid on the pan, raise the heat to med-medium-high and continue to cook another 5-10 minutes until the sprouts are caramelized, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally to ensure even caramelization on all sides. Once caramelized to your preference, remove from heat and sprinkle with 1/4 cup good quality parmesan or other sharp flavored hard cheese, such as gruyere. If you're not into cheese, instead add 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar during the last 5 minutes, allowing the vinegar to caramelize the sprouts. Both versions are exceptional, super easy, healthy and will convert any brussels sprout haters for life!
Enjoy--Lisa (and Beast, of course)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

As the snow flies the lettuce grows

Just as the snow has started falling my cold frame lettuce experiment is starting to look promising. I decided to try growing loose leaf lettuce in a cold frame this fall. I planted seeds at the beginning of October and have reseeded every two weeks. My goal is to have lettuce out of the cold frame through New Year's. If we get more, fantastic. If we get none, well, it really only cost the price of the seeds, so not too much lost, but it's looking promising right now, as you can see from the photos. We're about one week from our first baby greens-yum!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wood Fired Pizza, Good Friends and only 2 days Left Until the Elections

It was an unbelievably warm fall that will probably go down in history...if tomorrow doesn't beat it, which it may---a record high is predicted. We gathered with good friends for wood fired pizza and enjoyed talk about everything from food to elections to getting old, but mostly we talked about food. I've baked a LOT of pizza, from scratch, both in my oven and on my grill, but I've never, until today, baked pizza in a wood fired oven. It's truly AMAZING...what takes 10 minutes in my oven and 5-7 minutes on my grill is done in just 2-3 minutes in a wood fired oven. And talk about crisp, bubbly perfection--yum! Thanks friends...let's not wait too long to do it again!
So now, after a long, drawn out Presidential campaign it's only 2 days from the elections, and I've got to admit that if I were one of the candidates I'd probably want to go to sleep until the inauguration in January, but I'd also be a bit let down after all these many months of pounding the pavement and stumping. That said, I'd NEVER run for public office---what are they--NUTS? They get paid very little, criticized constantly and have the toughest job imaginable--no thank you. That said, predictions are for record voter turn out and the longest voting lines in my lifetime. So, I think I'll bring some cold pizza and vote early tomorrow to avoid the election day crowds.
Until next time--enjoy the fall weather, soon it will be time for over the river and through the woods...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween--We had a few problems with the costumes

As you can see...the kitties were not into the idea of "dressing up" for Halloween. No matter what I tried to bribe him with, Beast wasn't wearing "no stinking bat costume". The only reason Birch put up with it is because she's been around long enough to know it won't last too long. And Coffee, well, she's too little to fight back.
I'm boycotting the candy giving this year and I found some "healthy" treats...sort of. Mini packets of animal crackers-they're actually still pretty good, and low fat too; fruit sticks--supposed to be made from real fruit, and loaded with vitamin C; and mini packs of Doritos, Cheetos and Lays potato chips--by far the best tasting and the worst for you. I wish we could go back to the days when people actually made the snacks. Remember that? I may be giving my age away, but I remember when we used to be invited into the homes and actually had to do a "trick" before we got a treat, and there were usually a bunch of adults sitting around having cocktails and smoking. Then sometime while I was still a kid people started doing sick things like putting razor blades in apples and poisoning candy. So we no longer hand out homemade treats and everything has to be factory sealed in individual pouches, which most often must be inspected by mom and dad before the little ghosts and goblins get to taste the treats. That said, the costumes are still great fun and the kids love ringing the doorbells and hollering TRICK OR TREAT at the top of their lungs.
Beast's Kitchen, where we're cooking up miniature pumpkin empanada treats, Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008


Aye-Aye-Aye-Aye...I love pepitas! I love the fall, as you've probably already learned. I love the leaves, the cool weather, warm fires on cold evenings, mums, planting bulbs, eating squash and pumpkins and Pepitas--pumpkin seeds. When scooping pumpkin for cheesecake, muffins, bread or soup I cannot bring myself to just toss out the guts, seeds and all. I have to save the seeds and then roast them for snacks, or for use in recipes. You can even use them as the nuts in a pesto recipe. Over time I've learned a couple of tricks that make them much yummier. When scooping them out of the pumpkins I put them, guts and all into a bowl and then once all the pumpkin goo is scooped out, I strain the seeds free through my hands to separate the seeds from the slimy flesh. You don't need to worry about getting them perfectly clean, as some of the gooey flesh adds flavor to the seeds. Then, soak them in salted water overnight. The next day, drain them and spread them on a sheet pan and dry them in the oven at a very low temperature until completely dried, but not shriveled up and flaky. They taste great this way, or you can store them in an airtight container until ready to use in recipes. I often make spicy pumpkin seeds by melting a couple of tbsp of butter and adding cumin, ground cayenne pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce, then baking for about 45 minutes in a 250-275° oven, then sprinkle with coarse salt, stir and cool in the pan. These usually won't make it to storage in our house, but they make great snacks and even fun hostess gifts for the holidays. So before you toss out all those yummy seeds when carving your pumpkins, think of a fun use for them and the nutritional value as well--roughage!
Happy Carving--

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weenies Roasting on an Open Fire

Fall: Falling Leaves, Chilly Evenings, and Weenies Roasting on an Open Fire!
I love the smell of a fire pit in the fall. Last night the rain stopped just in time for roasting weenies on the open fire. I am not fond of hot dogs...they're pretty disgusting actually. And the alternative versions, such as tofu pups, like the one on the left in the photo, aren't any better. That said, there's something about roasting over an open fire, whether it be hot dogs, marshmallows or skewers of veggies, everything just tastes better. Tim loves hot dogs so about once a year I buy some really good quality hot dogs and make them as a treat, then he gets to eat the whole package and get that out of his system for a while. In addition, every once in a while when we cook out with the neighbors there are hot dogs to satisfy his finer taste buds.
I have found a few hot dogs worth trying, and here's the list (in no particular order): Nueske's Applewood Smoked Wieners, Usinger's Wieners, Bavaria Sausage Wieners, Jordandal Farm, Miesfeld's, Ruegsegger Farms

Friday, October 17, 2008

Greens, Greens, and More Greens!

I'm not sure how this happened, but this week we ended up with an abundance of greens. You would think that odd for this late in the growing season, but some of the greens are quite hardy and thrive in cold weather. There was so much between what I picked up at the Farmer's Market on Wednesday and what we received in the CSA that I knew we couldn't possibly digest that many greens before they wilted. So I went to work blanching for freezing. From what appeared to be a humongous mountain of greens I stored a one gallon bag of mixed blanched greens for use over the winter. Normally I prefer to sauté them and eat them fresh, but I also like having them on hand during the winter for making soups, stews, pasta etc. I freeze some of the darndest things, that you would never think could be frozen. Tomatoes don't even have to be blanched-just wash, dry and freeze on a tray until solid, then pop them in a bag. Parsley, cilantro and basil can be washed, dried and frozen in bags for use over the winter as well. No, they don't taste as good as fresh, but at least they are local and I know where they came from. Too much arugula? Try making pesto with it. Pesto freezes beautifully and is great to have on hand for a quick pasta, pizza, foccacia or crostini. And be creative with your pesto--it doesn't have to be pine nuts--you can use any nuts you have on hand. Just toast them and add them to the mixture. I've used almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios in the past. You can also use a variety of different cheeses, or even leave out the cheese until you're ready to use the pesto and mix it in after thawing and just before using. Pesto goes a long way, so I've found it is helpful to freeze it in ice cube trays and then once frozen transfer the cubes into a plastic bag or container. That way you don't have to thaw out a huge container and feel like you need to use it all at once. Half pint dairy containers also work nicely, but often that's too much for just one dish as well. Be sure to have plenty of garlic on hand when making's just not the same without all the garlic, and a bit of salt too. Here's my basic recipe:
1 bunch basil washed, dried and leaves removed; 1 head of garlic; a handful of toasted nuts; a couple of pinches of salt; a small mound of grated hard cheese, like parmesan or asiago...the better the quality, the better the pesto; and of course extra virgin olive oil, again, the better the quality, the better the pesto. Throw everything except the oil into the food processor and chop until it's well processed, then gradually add olive oil to taste. YUM!

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's Blooming!

Something made me wake up at 12:01 am and venture downstairs to check on the Hookeri, and It's Blooming!
It feels like having a small child that you need to keep checking on. I woke up several times during the night and checked to see if it was still there--DUH! While awake I started wondering again what had made it bloom for only the second time ever, and I think I may now have a clue. This year we transplanted the plant into a much larger pot and it grew quite a bit over the summer. It may just be that the last time we transplanted it was the last time it bloomed. We'll have to see what happens next year. In any case, there should be another bloom, possibly two tonight and the final one tomorrow or Sunday. It would be great if more than one flower bloomed at once, but I don't know if that can happen.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

---still waiting...and Mustard Greens

It might just be the next new moon before the Hookeri flowers. It grows at least an inch a day, so it has to be getting close, but still no flowers. Since we know it blooms at night we even check in the middle of the night so we don't somehow miss the big event!
Mustard Greens: Last week and this week amongst the bounty in our CSA share has been a healthy dose of Mustard Greens. This is another of those things that wasn't on our plates growing up, so I'm learning how to use them in unique and different ways, other than just mixing in with salad. They are actually quite beautiful and would look pretty in a floral arrangement, but I want to eat them, so I won't put them in a vase. In my hunt across the Internet, I came across this recipe for a Tepary Bean and Mustard Green Relish on Gluten A Go Go Blog. I also found this recipe for Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese on Yum! Another idea I had was to do my favorite hot bacon mustard dressing and make a salad using the greens instead of spinach...add some almonds, hard boiled eggs, red onions and homemade croutons and Voila--Dinner!

Friday, October 3, 2008

still waiting

As of today, still no Hookeri flowers. The stems the buds will come out on have doubled in size but we appear to be more on schedule for flowering in another few days. We reluctantly took in the plant because the nights are getting so cold, but we were concerned that would mess it up, but that doesn't appear to be the case. We're hoping it will bloom over the weekend...maybe Tuesday for my birthday!
Here's what they look like now. Check back soon for a progress update...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eaphyllum Hookeri (? Huh ?) and Calendars

Eaphyllum Hookeri (???what???you're asking?) Well, let me tell you, on this, the first day of the new moon....
Tim has had this plant FOREVER, and four years ago on a magical fall night, well after we had taken it indoors for the winter, it bloomed. It had never bloomed before, and hasn't since. We've been trying for some time now to figure out what the heck the plant is, and how to make it bloom again. Recently while on his vacation, Tim found the plant on the web, after a full morning of relentless searching. Apparently there are several versions close to it, but none precisely as this one, so we're pretty sure we've got the right one. In any case, they don't bloom frequently...some people claim yearly, others claim only once in many years (that must be ours). Anywho, the story goes that it will bloom within 48 hours of the new moon. We figured that for so much WHOOEY, but when we looked up the date on our photo we realized it was only a week past a new moon, and it was entirely possible that the photo didn't make it from our camera to the computer for a week 4 years ago, pre-digital camera days for us.
SO....we're waiting patiently to see if this thing is truly going to bloom again. We've got three apparent blooms coming on one leaf and one bloom on another...check back tomorrow for photos of those...I forgot to take them before it got dark out and will try to remember to post them tomorrow so you can follow the progress.
It's sort of like the stinky flower at the UW which nobody goes to see even though it only blooms a few hours, because it is so stinky. Well, ours isn't stinky, but it is unpredictable and it lasts just a very short time. This time due to technology we plan to video it and post it here on Beast's Kitchen for y'all to see.
And now on to Calendars...yes, I know that was about lunar calendars, but I have a new 2009 calendar for purchase on HERE...check it out!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apples, Salsa and Pumpkins!

As much as I hate to see summer end, my favorite season truly is fall. Perhaps that's because I'm a Libra, born in October, when the leaves are turning and everything is colorful and change is on the way. I love fall, I love the tiny golden leaves that line the streets like gold thrown by fairies at night. I love apples, salsa, and especially pumpkins!
Today I made green tomato salsa with some of the last of the tomatoes of the year. It wasn't a great year for tomatoes if you enjoy the big, juicy ripe ones, but the green ones make some great salsas, relishes and chutneys, as well as fried green tomatoes!
I look forward to Apple season almost as much as Asparagus season. I say almost as much because Asparagus season is shorter and more dear to us, here in South Central Wisconsin. In spite of the chilly spring and wet weather early in the growing season, the apples in this part of the state seem to be doing well. On Sunday when my computer printer ran out of ink I stopped at the Monona Farmer's Market while trying to find ink on a Sunday morning, and purchased some of Vivian Green's scrumptious apples. Vivian and her husband own Green's Pleasant Springs Orchards in Stoughton. They have some of the best darn apples I've ever had, and are some of the hardest working, most honest people you'll ever meet. Vivian and her husband sell at several farmer's markets around town, and in spite of that Vivian was surprised to see me at the Monona market on Sunday. I told her, I'm everywhere! If there's a farmer's market, I shop there!
On Saturday I worked at the Food for Thought Festival on behalf of Madison Originals. While chatting with people during the festival I saw some pretty awesome pumpkins going by. One was so big it looked like it had taken over the stroller it was riding in. I also saw some adorable youngsters with pie pumpkins, just the right size for little ones to carry home. I was worried about the pumpkins this year, after the late spring, hard rains early and then drought mostly all summer, I didn't know what we'd see for pumpkins. Until I cut into one and prepare it for one of our favorite pumpkin dishes I won't really know the quality, but they look awfully yummy at first glance! I'll keep you posted on what I find as I start cooking and cutting for pies, soups, bars, and yes, cheesecake. My favorite all time cheesecake has always been pumpkin, and after 20 months hiatus from baking them, I'm ready for some pumpkin cheesecake!
Enjoy the fall, bask in the warm afternoons, and enjoy the cool evenings. Roast marshmallows with the kids after dinner and watch for the harvest moon. All too soon it will be cold and we'll be stuck indoors for more hours than we'd like each day, so enjoy the fall and embrace the change of seasons.
Next time...Beast baking fall goodies!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Farm Photos and Signs

One of the things I love best is taking photos of very ordinary things. Early this summer I went out to Jordandal Farm and photographed the animals on a beautiful, sunny day between the rains. I've finally just now found the time to sort through the photos, edit them and post them, here on the website. It's a somewhat daunting task to go through 400 pictures and decide which are worth keeping, and then crop them, adjust lighting and save them for web use. I would guess that many digital photographers never get around to doing anything with all those photos they collect. I actually enjoy the entire process, from the experience taking the photos through the editing and to the printing or digital posting. Unfortunately time is like money and it doesn't grow on trees, so sometimes I don't get to my collections as quickly as I would like. In any case, Many Thanks to Eric and Carrie Johnson at Jordandal Farm for allowing me the opportunity to take up some of their precious time in order to photograph their wonderful farm in the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin. When I was there Eric asked if I was going to "pick out my lamb", as I had recently ordered a lamb for fall slaughter. The thought of photographing the little darling that would later feed us so well was a bit more than I could swallow, and thankfully Eric explained that it would be nearly impossible to ensure that the one I selected would be the one that came in my packaged bundles--WHEW! They are all adorable and I had great fun chasing them about the field trying to get them to stand still long enough to photograph them. I never knew how many variations of "BLEET" there were. I suppose it's just like humans...we all have our distinct voices too.
On the way back to Madison from the farm I came across something else I enjoy photographing...signs. I'm particularly enamored with old neon signs, and I'm working on that collection to add to the website as well. In any case, I came across the one at the top of this BLOG entry and drove back around the block to photograph it...I couldn't pass it up, nor could Beast's Kitchen! Until next time...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Roasted Fennel and Garlic, YUM!

When I picked up the CSA this week I noticed a lot of extra fennel in the "share box". The share box is where people exchange an item they don't like, can't eat or won't use for another they prefer. Someone commented to me that it looked like everyone had traded in their fennel. I replied, "Not me! I want more". So I reluctantly parted with a head of cabbage for extra fennel. When roasted fennel has a wonderful sweet caramelized flavor, that is nowhere near what you would expect from the strong scent of the raw veggie. Fennel is yet another of the veggies I have no recollection of eating as a child, but that is a tasty addition to our diet as adults. I can't think of too many root vegetables that I don't like roasted with olive oil and garlic, and fennel is on that list. You can certainly eat it right out of the oven, in all the caramely goodness, but here's another the roasted fennel in the fridge and add it to other dishes, like a frittata with tomato, roasted fennel and cheese for brunch. Here's how to do it--
Roasted Fennel and Garlic:
1 bulb fennel--fronds cut off and root end sliced off the bulb, slice the bulb into 1/2 inch sections and place in an oven proof pan--I use a glass dish for caramelizing veggies. Top with 3-4 cloves minced garlic, then drizzle with 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and white pepper, and sprinkle with grated parmesan, asiago, or other hard cheese. Roast in a 350-375° oven for about 45 minutes. If you can keep from eating it all as soon as it comes out of the oven, then store in the fridge for later use.
Place 2 tbsp melted butter or olive oil in glass pie plate, arrange roasted fennel and garlic in pie plate, then pour in 4-6 eggs, whisked. Season with salt and white pepper, and top with grated cheese of your choice. Bake in a 325° oven for 30-40 minutes, or until puffy and slightly browned on top. Serve with your favorite beverage (mine's a Pomosa--recipe below) and side of fruit, toast, bagel, whatever. Enjoy!
Pomosa: (I get credit for the name...I invented the drink!)
Pour 1 oz pomegranate juice in a champagne flute and top with your favorite champagne. Garnish with a twist of lime, enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Food, Wonderful Food!

Today is CSA day. I often want to take photos of the wonderful boxes of food that we receive each week, but that would become redundant at some point. What never gets old though, is photos of the people, vegetables and animals that make our CSA boxes complete. Cheers to those who help make our lives healthier, happier, and much more interesting! Today I took just a couple of photos at Jen Ehr Farm when I picked up our CSA box. You see, I didn't take nearly enough photos of the staff on the farm this year, and I sense several of them are about to move on to school or other endeavors, so I thank you all for sloshing through the mud, sweating through the heat and sun, and ensuring that each and every week the CSA customers have a beautiful, healthful share to enjoy. I know that this time on the farm will last in your memories forever. I hope that it has permanently changed the way you look at and eat food. I hope that some of you will choose the difficult path that Kay and Paul have chosen, which so enriches our lives that it is worth all the heartache, sleepless nights and financial worries that come with the territory. If you take nothing more with you, please go forward with the knowledge that you have contributed to a healthy, sustainable way of eating, and we are all better off because of your efforts. Bountiful Eating!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

No Child Left A Dime

You won't see this often--I'm not into politics, but this was too good to pass up. While walking home from the library 5 minutes ago, yes, walking...some of us still do that, I saw this bumper sticker, and thanks to modern technology it's now on my Blog. Recently we've been talking in the back yard with the neighbors about what a joke the "economic stimulus" checks are, how much money it will cost us and our children to pay for this foolishness and how it really isn't going to help the economy at all. So I took a few steps back and took a picture of the bumper sticker with my cell phone, and while I was taking it I read the one above...priceless. Of course, often even if you do vote people like Bush & Cheney get selected--that's how pitiful the options are. So, that's my two cents on current politics.
But while I'm on a rant, in today's Wisconsin State Journal Opinion section, there was an article about the FDA allowing irradiation of greens, and how "The move will protect Wisconsin consumers from bad spinach and food-borne illness-but only if they buy irradiated products." HUH??? Hello, nice pitch for corporate agriculture. If we all eat locally grown produce and know who our farmers are and how they handle our food we really don't have too much to worry about, AND it's good for the local economy and environmentally correct too. Buy Local--It's Fresh and Safe.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beans, Pickles and Yes--Blueberries

Beans and pickles--dilly beans and pickles. It's canning time and just before heading to St Louis to see Tim's daughter Angela, and his grandson, Isaac I canned up some dill pickles and some dilly beans. Coincidentally while we were visiting, little baby Isaac ate some beans and pickles, at the urging of his Grandma (me!) He's only 9 months old, and has only two teeth, but he has a great appetite and so far likes pretty much everything! Last weekend my niece, Sarah, was married in Illinois. I've just added the photos to the people section of the photography pages. Check them out! And yes, FINALLY I've found blueberries. They haven't been easy to find this year, and don't come cheap, at $8 per quart, but boy are they yummy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

No Blueberries Yet, but Tomatoes!

In spite of oversleeping and not getting to the Dane County Farmer's Market until 9 am on Saturday, there were no blueberries to be melons either. I had a hankering for cantaloupe and blueberries, which will have to wait a few more days. There were early Lodi apples, the tart, green early apples that let us know fall is coming. And there was Apple Cider, which is a very welcome relief to the fill-in orange juice we've been buying to get our fruit juice intake.
But Tomatoes, they are starting to ripen in the garden and we had our first summer bounty last night with fresh basil out of the garden, fresh, local mozzarella and balsamic vinegar. Can you say summer in a bowl? What a treat. And we're just at the beginning of the tomato season. I saw some awesome heirlooms at the farmer's market, but I have three plants ready to burst any time so I'd rather wait for those. Somehow it's much more fun to pick them out of the garden at home and put them on the table for lunch or dinner, or even breakfast. My largest tomato plant fell over twice due to an early morning storm on Sunday. It took some rigging to save it and to get it upright, but it's full of green tomatoes, so I didn't want to lose what is sure to be a boatload shortly.
So tomorrow at the Wednesday market I'll go in search of blueberries and melon, and probably find some other yummy things as well. Next Blog--blueberries???

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Turmeric and Putting Veggies by For Winter

Apparently it may not be weekly that I write in the BLOG, which for now is ok since hardly anyone knows it exists. Today's BLOG is about Turmeric. I love working with food and experimenting with herbs and spices. Something I heard recently got me thinking about Turmeric. It's one of those spices that you might have heard about but don't really know what to do with, or what it is, for that matter. As I did some research on the web, I quickly realized why Turmeric stuck in my brain. I have an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) called Crohn's Disease. (yeah, I know...bowels---yuk! Tell me about it, for the last couple of years I've been plagued by problems related to mine). Anyway, while I was at the Willy Street Coop I picked up some Turmeric in the bulk herb and spice section, which by the way, is a fantastic way to purchase fresh herbs and spices in quantities that you control, and helps to ensure freshness, not to mention being cost effective. So I came home and started doing some research and found out that Turmeric is known (in alternative medicine circles-i.e. non-HMO medicine) to be beneficial to a number of the common ailments Americans suffer with today: IBD, Alzheimer's, Liver Function, Cholesterol, Cardiovascular, Breast, Prostate, Lung and Colon Cancer, and Childhood Leukemia, to name a few. So, pretty much everyone can benefit from a little Turmeric in their diet, and it doesn't seem to take much to realize health benefits. The key ingredient to the health benefits is curcumin, which is found in curry powder, but more concentrated in turmeric. If you are interested in more about the health benefits, check out these websites: World's Healthiest Foods, National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Brain Research Institute UCLA. If you just want to know what to do with Turmeric for cooking, there's also advice on these sites. Turmeric is one of the key ingredients in curry, and has the yellow tint that we commonly associate with curry powder. It stains terribly, so watch how you handle it. Of the recipe ideas I've come across so far, I like this one the best: Help increase your liver's ability to clear LDL-cholesterol by relying on turmeric, not just for delicious fish, meat or lentil curries, but to spice up healthy sautéed onions, potatoes and/or cauliflower; or as the key flavoring for a creamy vegetable dip. Just mix plain yogurt with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise and turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.
Today I also picked up 5 lbs of cucumbers to pickle, 3 lbs of green beans to make into Spicy Dilly Beans and 15 ears of the freshest, sweetest corn to freeze for the months when I wish I had eaten more when the bounty was plentiful. I was a bit worried this year with the flooding that some of these things would be unavailable at Farmer's Market, but never fear, there here! I recently purchased an antique 2 gallon Red Wing Crock from a friend of my sister's in Red Wing, MN for the purpose of making Miso in it, but I currently have a 3 gallon crock of Miso fermenting so I'm going to use the 2 gallon crock for pickles. I'm a bit leery of the cats getting into the crock while it ferments (they've tried to get into the Miso), but I suspect they won't really like Dill pickles, although Beast is a green veggie hound and he may like bobbing for pickles...time will tell. More about Beast in a future BLOG. So I hate boiling water during the hottest part of the summer, which coincidentally this is, and I just finished a 24 hour batch of chicken broth, so the house is plenty steamy already. Anyway, I started researching how to freeze corn, as I've never done it before because I can't seem to keep my butter and salt covered hands off the sweet tender ears that I wait all year for! I found that most recommendations are for the traditional blanching and freezing method, but the more I read the more I thought YUK! I don't even boil my corn to eat it, so why in the world would I want to boil it to freeze it??? And most of the recipes called for blanching to a point that I would consider it corn mush. You can blanch by steaming, which helps keep more of the nutrients in the corn, but I also found that you can freeze corn in the husk without cooking it first. I'm skeptical if this will work, because the whole point of blanching prior to freezing is to control the enzymes that make veggies turn to mush in the freezer if you don't blanch first. Anyway I decided to try an experiment...I froze 12 ears in the husk and I'm going to shuck and blanch 12 ears and freeze those. Then, as we eat the corn in the months to come we'll take out one ear of each and compare them as time goes by. That way we'll know which method to use in the future. I was skeptical about freezing tomatoes, but I'm a complete convert and it sure beats cooking, peeling and canning in 95° heat at 95% humidity at the end of August. Of course, I'll still do that for my salsa, and pizza sauce, but frankly, much of what I use tomatoes for during the winter months can easily be accomplished with fresh frozen local organic tomatoes. So that was my day, and tomorrow morning when the house is at its coolest I'll can up those Dilly Beans and we'll enjoy them in Bloody Marys on Sunday mornings for months to come. (or we'll give them away as Holiday Gifts to friends and family). Next BLOG: Blueberries!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I haven't yet decided how frequently I plan to write in the BLOG...more than once per week, possibly not daily. I've been working on a project using mussel and oyster shells lately, and of course it makes me hungry for mussels, so yesterday I went to the Seafood Center and purchased 4 lbs of fresh mussels, along with a half dozen oysters for Tim. Last night I made a Steamed Mussels in a Creole Mustard, Bacon and Cognac Cream Sauce recipe from Emeril, (which for some reason my computer won't let me link right now). I found the recipe on the Food Network if you want to try it. They were yummy but the sauce could have been thicker. That was the first 2 lbs. Tonight I'm preparing Curried Mussels. I am a hopeless foodie and thoroughly enjoy preparing foods that most people go out to eat. When I do eat out I'm always in search of new things to try and recreate at home. Often I find that I can prepare something equally as tasty at a much lower cost at home, which is great. Saturday is Farmer's Market day in Madison. The Dane County Farmer's Market is the largest outdoor market in the U.S. drawing approximately 20,000 people each week. Most of them don't buy much other than pastries and coffee and it's more of a place to socialize, be seen and talk about than it is a food source for the vast majority who attend. To avoid the annoying double wide stroller crowd it is best to arrive by 7 am and get in a trip round the capitol square to your favorite vendors before the crowds arrive. Anytime after 8 am it's hopelessly jammed with people standing in groups chatting while blocking the sidewalk. I usually buy way more than I need but always thoroughly enjoy all of it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BLOG Day 1-Welcome! CSA Day

Thursday is CSA pick-up day, which is my favorite day of the week during CSA season. Tim and I share a CSA from JenEhr Family Farm with our friend, Robert von Rutenberg. This has been a particularly difficult year for many farmers. The drought and subsequent floods of 2007 were followed by a winter of record snowfall, a slow, cool spring, and now rain, rain and more rain. It makes me wonder why anyone would choose a way of life that is so dependent upon the weather. I'm extremely thankful that they do, though, because it allows us to continue on our quest to be dedicated locavores. I think for the farmers who do have CSAs, the CSA customers are critical during the lean years. If those same farmers chose only to sell at market or wholesale they would be in much worse shape financially. With the CSA at least they share the financial burden with the CSA members. Each week we receive a CSA e-newsletter reminding us to pick up our share and telling us what is in our box this week. The newsletter also has information about the farm, and recipes so we know what to do with some of the food we find in the box that we've never seen before. As I continue to build the website I'll be adding my own recipes that I've developed while playing with my CSA food. Some of what comes in our box I know wasn't on our dinner table while growing up. I've come to realize that my mother must have had an aversion to root vegetables, because I don't remember eating much in the way of beets (except pickled), turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, and many of the other wonderful things that give me such joy each week. I never look at the newsletter ahead of time to see what's in the box--that way it's like opening presents when I get to the farm and start transferring my box to my cooler. I love everything about the CSA, from farmers Kay and Paul, to pickup at the farm, to knowing exactly where my food came from and how it was grown, and best of all preparing and enjoying every last fresh, healthy, untainted, organic bite!