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Home Gardens Musings Recipes Uncategorized

Summer Garden Bounty

The end of July and beginning of August are an exciting time for Vermont gardeners.  Finally we enjoy a huge diversity of sun-ripened fruits, berries, and vegetables from our gardens and farms.  We’ve been savoring first raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, broccoli, onions, garlic, and beets.  Waiting all these months, of course, makes it all much more exciting and delicious.

garden goodies

After several long rainy weeks, we’ve been enjoying a stretch of sunny low-humidity days and cool nights.  Though it’s meant fewer lake swims, it has been perfect weather for daily weeding sessions, keeping up with the ever-growing lush green lawn, and kitchen cooking projects.

End of July Garden

In the kitchen, I excitedly pickled a batch of kohlrabi, fennel, and beets.  They flavors and colors are blending wonderfully, turning bright pink (click here to learn more about natural fermentation).

July Pickles

buckwheat pancakes

I’ve also been LOVING a newly discovered recipe for Sourdough Buckwheat Pancakes.  Buckwheat is a really interesting “grain” and  offers a unique alternative to wheat.  This recipe sprouts and sours the buckwheat, making it even more nutritious and digestible.  The pancakes were nutty and tender with crisp edges (be sure to use plenty of grass-fed butter in your pan), and a perfect vehicle for the delicious fruits and berries that are now in season. 

Happy harvesting, happy feasting!

lake sunset

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Home Gardens Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes Uncategorized

July in the Garden and Kitchen

Vermonters are basking in a string of sunny summery days after many many (many) days of rain.  The change in weather means I can finally deal with the grass and weeds that have been happily growing in our lawn and garden.  I’ve also been able to enjoy the best part of summer in VT: after-work swims in Lake Champlain.

Lake in July

Over the past several weeks I realized I’d posted blogs in previous years about many of the seasonal tasks I was busy with in the kitchen and garden.  I’ve included a recap and links below, in addition to a delicious nourishing shortcake recipe we’ve been enjoying with our freshly picked strawberries and whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Nourishing Strawberry Shortcake: This recipe involves soaking the flour in yogurt 24 hours before baking.  To learn more about how this makes flour products more nourishing and digestible, check out this article and video.  (recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

Ingredients: 2 cups white flour, 1.5 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup yogurt/buttermilk/kefir, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 3 tablespoons maple syrup.

  1. Mix yogurt and flour.  It will be a very stiff dough, don’t worry.  Cover and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  2. Melt butter.  Mix butter and maple syrup into dough.  In a small dish, mix baking soda and salt, breaking up any little balls of baking soda.  Sprinkle dry mixture onto dough and mix, just until ingredients are barely combined.
  3. Divide dough into apx. 12 balls and place on baking sheet.  They will spread a bit while baking.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.
  5. Enjoy with fresh strawberries and whipped cream!

biscuits

strawberriesStrawberry Season in VT: This year’s strawberry season was admittedly rain-drenched.  Luckily I was able to sneak in a few mornings of before-work picking.  We’ve been enjoying plenty of fresh berries in all our meals, and froze several gallons for the winter.  Check out this blog post to learn how to quickly freeze berries so that they stay delicious and easy to use in the future.

Other Firsts from the Garden: The last several weeks have brought the first crunchy harvests.  We’ve been enjoying kohlrabi and sugar snap peas in addition to plentiful lettuce, spinach, chard, and herbs.  And just a few days ago we picked the first handful of raspberries from our bushes.  It’s really starting to feel like July!

Crunchy first harvest

And Speaking of HerbsI’ve been enjoying going out to the field and garden each morning to gather leaves for my pregnancy tea blend (also gentle and delicious for other people): nettles, raspberry leaf, and mint.  ‘Tis the season to harvest herbs you’d like to freeze or dry.  Harvest most herbs now – they’re best when young and tender.  Check out this blog post to learn about harvesting and preserving herbs.

Tea Leaves

Garden Pests: Many flying garden pests are busy laying eggs at this time of year.  If you monitor your plants closely, squishing mating pairs of insects and any eggs they’ve laid (often on the undersides of leaves), you can prevent their population from booming in your garden.  This post has more information about pest control in the garden.

squash bugs

Granola: In the summer I find myself wanting something cool and fruity for breakfast – a big swing from my savory broth, soaked oats, and egg-based breakfasts of winter.  Unfortunately store-bought cold cereals and pasteurized milk are a pretty tough way to start the day for my digestive system.  Plus, they are often loaded with crazy ingredients and sugar and leave me craving more.  Thank goodness for my favorite nourishing homemade granola, homemade kefir or yogurt, freshly picked berries, and local raw milk!  Note to self – next year make a lot of granola early in the spring when the oven heat is appreciated in the kitchen.

Homemade Granola

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Recipes Uncategorized

Winter Recipes

I love cooking in the winter.   Darkness comes early, leaving plenty of time for food prep before I get hungry for dinner.  Warmth and good smells contrast with the brisk cold outdoor air.  And the final result is a hot delicious meal.

Though I’ve cooked a bunch of new recipes recently, I failed to take any photos or document the ingredient tweaks made as I adjusted each dish to taste.  Oh well.  It turns out I’ve already documented many of our go-to recipes that incorporate stored, frozen, and canned garden harvests.  Here are some favorite recipes for the depths of winter:

Chicken Soup and Elderberry Syrup: Two of our favorite get-well-soon foods.

elderberry-syrup

Squash:  A variety of simple flavor combinations that allow you to enjoy last year’s bountiful harvest day after day.

Butternut squash

Winter Sweetened Kale & Brussels sprouts: Sweetened and tender from frost, these brassicas are nothing like the peppery and sometimes tough summer versions.  You can’t go wrong with these simple go-to recipes.

Winter-Kale-brussels-harvest

Chili and cornbread: Nourishing and delicious.  Perfect for enjoying in front of the fireplace after a day filled with snowy adventures.

chili-up-close

Tomato soup: A standard in our household.  This is our favorite way to use tomatoes canned in the height of sunny summer.

Tomato-soup-with-toast

Ginger and Turmeric recipes: Miso squash bisque, curried broth, and Golden milk tea: Warming, comforting, delicious, and SO good for you!

Ginger-and-Turmeric1

Cream of cauliflower soup: So creamy you’ll forget it’s packed with veggies.

cream-of-cauliflower2

Enjoy

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Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

End-of-the-Season Recipes

oct-harvest

It’s the end of the growing season, but it isn’t quite time to rest.  With the bulk of our harvest frozen, canned, dried, and fermented, it’s time to deal with the left overs: the harvest that didn’t get processed during the peak of the season.  Though these “ugly” fruits and veggies are now gaining recognition in the mainstream (not everything comes out looking perfect!), they’ve always been part of harvesting and cooking for home gardeners.  I have fun examining the motley selection of veggies occupying my kitchen counters and refrigerator space, determining how they could be combined in delicious ways.  It takes some creativity at this time of year!

Sometimes end-of-season produce is a bit worse for the wear.  This weekend I prepared several gallons of sauerkraut from some cabbages that were admittedly acting as slug hotels in the garden.  After removing the holey outer leaves, however, wonderful fall sweetened crisp cabbage was revealed.  Yum!

cutting-cabbage1

It is also an important time of year to monitor harvest stores in the basement and attic.  Any veggies that show sign of rot or discoloration should be used first.  As last night’s dinner highlighted, blemished squash, onions, and other veggies are often perfectly delicious.   They don’t stay good for long, however, so it’s good to enjoy them right away while they’re still tasty.

Butternut squash

Thankfully, some plants are happy to be outside in the frost and colder weather.  Most of the brassicas: kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, get sweeter and more tender after it has frosted.  For now I’ll happily leave them outside and will be ready to enjoy them when I see counters and fridge shelves empty and need to go get vegetables in order to prepare for our next meal.

Find great recipes for fall harvest from some of my previous blog posts:  Sauerkraut, pumpkin, chard, winter squash, frost sweetened kale, and Brussels sprouts.  Enjoy!

Winter-Kale-brussels-harvest

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Home Gardens Uncategorized

October in the Garden

autumn-breakfast
Autumn breakfast treat: chai, cider donut, and cinnamon apples

Fall is certainly in the air.  Colors have changed dramatically in the last week, and we are now in peak foliage in the Champlain Valley.  According to our climate zone, we were supposed to get a frost by October 1st.  However, the end of the growing season has been unusually long and the garden is still going strong.

We are learning more about our property’s micro climate and have been surprised to have escaped several frosts that nipped our nearby neighbors.  Last Friday temperatures were projected to dip below freezing, so we did a big harvest and covered up the plants we wanted to save.  The next morning revealed a frost so light that even the basil was spared.  Our airy southern sloping garden seems to keep frost from forming on the plants when temperatures hover around freezing!  Though I am excited for the ongoing bounty, I’m also starting to feel tired and ready for the growing season to come to an end.

frost-harvest
Big pre-frost harvest – so many watermelons, peppers, and butternut squashes this year!
survived-the-frost
We escaped another frost! Blankets drying and garden still going strong.

Foliage isn’t waiting around for freezing temperatures.  In the past week, trees in our area have turned dramatically.  The hills are tinged with reds, oranges and yellows.  Forest walks are stunning and smell richly of fallen leaves.  Vibrant colors surround us.

changing-colors
Sugar maple beauty: from green to red in a week.
autumn-house
Our house peeks through the foliage – the view as I make the final decent down Mt. Philo.
autumn-colors
A few fall forest scenes.
mid-oct-meal-prep
Mid-October pesto and veggies!

In the kitchen, it seems like it is still August.  We continue to have bountiful peppers, broccoli, beans, leafy greens, tomatoes, and fruit to play with.  We certainly got our fill this season.  Soon we will transition to winter jackets, squash, parsnips, and frost-sweetened kale and Brussels sprouts.  I’m ready!

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Home Gardens Musings Uncategorized

July in our Vermont Garden

Ahhh, July.  In our Vermont garden, July means…

Days that actually feel summery.

sunny-cucumbers

Drought.

Followed (hopefully) by dramatic afternoon thunderstorms (hopefully not too dramatic).

lake-storm

First tastes of beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, husk cherries, tomatillos, basil, summer squash, raspberries, and sweet corn.

late-july-harvest

Followed quickly by an overwhelming abundance of beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, husk cherries, tomatillos, basil, summer squash, raspberries, and sweet corn.

Saying goodbye to peas and asparagus.  See you next spring!

end-of-pea-season

A chance to try out colorful sunshine-infused recipes I collected in the dark depths of winter.

Rainbow-Salsa-Ingredients

A relief from constant mowing as dry parts of the lawn turn crispy brown.

A proliferation of one garden bug, worm, beetle, or another.

japanese-beetle-harvest

Knowing that the hotter, sweatier, and dirtier I get, the better jumping in the lake will feel.

Lake-Champlain

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Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

Late June in the Garden

*Yes, I did mean late June… this mid-July rainy weekend is allowing me to get all caught up, and I couldn’t skip over the joys of the transition from leafy greens to other vegetables and fruit in the garden!*

late-june-salad-harvest

Along with our bounty of lettuce, we’ve happily begun to harvest some sweet, crunchy, and spicy veggies to add some diversity to our garden meals.  Late June brings asparagus, strawberries, peas, kohlrabi, and garlic scapes to Vermont gardens, along with a continued bounty of edible flowers and tender herbs.

strawberries-peas

I love savoring the firsts: our first two pea pods – our first spear of asparagus – the first taste of a freshly sun ripened strawberry.

With a large garden, this quickly changes into harvest management.  Which evening is free to pickle all the garlic scapes?  We missed a day harvesting peas – remember to leave extra time tomorrow to harvest two days worth.  Did that kohlrabi double in size last night?

I never regret the constant magnetic pull these bounties have, drawing me outside into the garden and inside into the kitchen.

Kohlrabi

If you’re growing garlic, this time of year yields an abundance of beautiful garlic scapes.  My favorite way to use scapes is to ferment them.  I will admit that fermented garlic is an acquired taste.  The smell is probably what some people think of when they complain about the stinkyness of foods like kimchi.  However, when cut small and used as a garnish, pickled scapes add a wonderful earthy garlicy flavor to a dish and are a great way to enjoy your scapes throughout the year.

scapes2

Naturally Fermented Garlic Scape Pickles:
– Pack as many scapes as you can into glass Mason jars.  I like to pack some using only vertically trimmed spears and some that allow the twisty shapes to wind around the inside of the glass.
– If you have whey from strained plain yogurt or brine from a previous batch of saurkraut or fermented veggie, add a splash to each jar.
– Add 1 scant teaspoon sea salt to each pint of veggies.
– Fill each jar the rest of the way with water and place lids on top without screwing them on (this allows gasses to escape and avoids making fizzy pickles while keeping out dust or flys).  Place jars on a plate or flat-bottomed dish on your counter (this keeps your counter clean in the event of an overflow during the fermentation process).
– Let jars sit at room temperature for at least a week.  Every day or two I screw on the lids tightly and tip the jars over a few times, coaxing out the air bubbles.
– When the color of the scapes has changed throughout each spear, they’re ready for a taste test.  If they’ve soured enough for your tastes, put into your fridge to slow the fermentation process.
– When you’d like to use, gather several scapes and cut straight across, making small rounds that add great garlic flavor when used as a garnish.

pickled-scape-garnish

scapes1

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Recipes Uncategorized

Back to Basics: Simple Winter Veggie Dishes

Thanksgiving is certainly an exciting and delicious celebration for those of us who love to prepare and eat food. Having enjoyed my fair share of tender meat, freshly baked breads, sweet fruit sauces, and dessert, dessert, and more dessert, I’m very much looking forward to a return to simple vegetable-focused meals.

 

Winter-Kale-brussels-harvestDecember is a wonderful time of year to enjoy the many varieties of sweet and earthy squashes and frost-sweetened mildly bitter greens. Though complex recipes often reward cooks with delicious results, equally yummy meals can be cooked up with very little effort. Add some shredded cheese, a poached egg, or a sprinkling of nuts and you’ll be well on your way to a satisfying, flavorful, filling, and nourishing meal.

Butternut squashSquash: Squashes come in all shapes and sizes and can be enjoyed in a huge variety of textures with a wide range of flavorings.  Read this post and decide which recipe you want to try next!

 

Winter-Kale-brussels-harvestKale: When cooked just the right amount with plenty of healthy fat and seasonings, kale really can live up to its hype.  These are my two favorite ways to prepare kale – they’re quite different and equally satisfying.

 

brussel-sprouts-gardenBrussels Sprouts: Here are my two go-to methods for cooking Brussels Sprouts .  Lucky for your dinner prep plans, they are really much better when cooked quickly at a high heat.  This helps cooks avoid any of the mushy or sulphery versions of this delicious kale cousin.

 

Tomato-soup-with-toastCanned Tomatoes: Don’t forget to start using your supply of preserved fruits and vegetables  Here’s my Basic Tomato Soup recipe.  It’s my favorite (and easiest) way to enjoy sun-ripened garden tomatoes canned during the growing season.

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Home Gardens Recipes

Dukkah: A Favorite Harvest Season Garnish

At this time of year, we’ve enjoyed countless dinners of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.  We’ve had more variations of salad than I can list.   It’s the time of year when I’m often in search of a new flavor or ingredient to spice up these still plentiful garden-harvested meals.

My answer this year?  Dukkah.  This mediterranean nut and spice blend is full of flavor, adds richness and depth to simple veggie dishes, and is wonderful if made fresh.  If kept in the fridge, the delicious freshly toasted spicy flavor will stay strong for several months.

dukkah

I followed a recipe from the Spice cookbook – highly recommended to anyone who is interested in gaining familiarity with delicious Mediterranean flavor combinations.  Dukkah, however, can be a very flexible recipe.  If you don’t have each of the following nuts, seeds, and spices in your pantry, feel free to substitute or omit freely.  I do think that the sour of the sumac, one of the ingredients that may be harder to find, enhances the final product nicely.  If you don’t use sumac, consider sprinkling lemon juice on your dish before topping it with dukkah.

dukkah1

Dukkah Recipe

  • Toast on a dry hot skillet: 1/3 cup raw pistachios, 1/3 cup raw almonds and 1/3 cup raw hazelnuts.  Once toasted, pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
  • Toast on a dry hot skillet: 3/4 cup sesame seeds, 1/4 cup coriander seeds, 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds.  Once toasted, pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
  • Once cool, blend all ingredients.  I blended in batches, with the large nuts first and the smaller seeds and spices second.  This allowed me to get a consistently sized final product. Blend until bits are small, but take care not to blend so much that it starts to turn into a nut butter paste.
  • Pulse into final mixture: 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon ground sumac.
  • Sprinkle over vegetables or meat, or serve with fresh bread and olive oil for dipping.

dukkah2

dukkah3

dukkah4

I love eating dukkah on top of grilled summer veggies (on zucchini above), sprinkled on top of my salads, mixed with feta, olive oil, and lemon juice into blanched kale, or used as a flavorful garnish on grilled or roasted meats.  What a delicious way to enjoy the bounty of summer and fall harvests.

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Children and Nature Home Gardens Musings Recipes

Spinach, Asparagus, and Tick Season

spring-harvest-bountyLate spring days grow warmer, lilacs are in full bloom, and we’re finally harvesting fresh shoots and greens from the garden!

We’ve also been finding ticks after days in the fields and forests.tick-ID  I strongly feel that there are far more benefits than risks when it comes to outdoor play (and work).  Take a moment to read up on Ticks and learn how to properly remove them.  When you know what to do when you find a tick, poison ivy, or any other other outdoor irritant, they all seem a lot less frightening.

asperagus-roastedWe are happily harvesting large bunches of asparagus from the garden.  There are all sorts of recipes I love to use asparagus in, but recently, we’ve really enjoyed roasting it.  We simply toss the spears with olive oil and soy sauce and bake at 400 degrees on a roasting pan until the spears are crispy and slightly blackened at the ends.  YUM.

spring-harvest

Spinach, dill, cilantro, and lambs quarters are all springing up in the garden, providing us with our first big fresh salads of the year.  We love early spring salads with cilantro lime dressing or our classic garlic dijon.  Looking back at past May/June blog posts, I can see that this year’s new and exciting salad concoctions are actually an annual ritual at this time of year.  If everything you’re harvesting for salad in May is green, try adding color with some edible flowers like pansies, violets, and chive blossoms.

Want to enjoy your greens without having salad for every meal?  We love this spinach soup recipe – it’s great warm or cold!  Happy harvesting.