Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spring Is Being Slow This Year

Usually in the Boston area we plant our peas on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th). As you can see we are still covered in snow. That isn't all that unusual. What is unusual is that we are getting some single digit temperatures the next couple of nights since we are in the middle of a cold spell. Even the long range temperatures are frigid. We aren't quite hitting record cold temps but usually our normal lows are in the high 20Fs and our highs are around 40F at the end of February. We did have a very short warm spell earlier and it did melt out some of the snow. As you can see the taller of the kale is now sticking out from under. I hope it doesn't mind yet another arctic blast.

One of the garnet sweet potatoes that I started earlier is starting to sprout a bit. And I started two Beauregard and two Purple sweet potatoes.

I went through my seeds now that they have all been delivered and put them in order. You can see I make out a sheet that tells me when to start my seeds indoors. This is not a hard and fast chart. In fact I was supposed to start some seeds this week, but I think I might wait a bit more. I don't think the ground will be unthawed by the solstice. If it were a warm winter I would start hardy spring things a bit early.

I use my sheet to sort my seeds. I take the ones I'm starting indoors and put them in order based on their start date. I have a similar sheet for seeds that get direct sowed. I keep that box upstairs in the plant nursery during the seed starting season. When I'm done with a bunch of them they get put back in the other box based which I sort based on type (like brassicas, cucurbits, and greens).

So for now the only plants I have growing are my onion seedlings. And I'll play it safe and wait another week to start my other seeds. I'm beginning to get impatient for spring.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Milk and Mushrooms

Oatmeal left, Almond right
So food is off topic if it doesn't involve my harvested produce, but I thought I'd talk about a couple of things anyway. The first is milk. I'm lactose intolerant so I don't use cow's milk in my cooking usually. I used soy for a while. I tried making my own soy milk, but I hated the taste. I finally got fed up with it and switched off of it. But before I did that I had to find a new "milk".

I tried oat milk. Both my husband and I weren't fond of that. So I moved to almond milk. It was delicious and much easier to make than my attempt at soy milk as it doesn't need to be cooked. It is pretty simple. I use a cup of almonds that I soak for a day or two, changing the water when I think of it. Then I grind them up with fresh water in my blender for a minute or two. I strain it with cheese cloth and put it in a quart jar. Then I add water to the top since it usually isn't quite there. So simple. But you do have to think ahead. And sadly my husband hates almonds. So now we have two jars of milk in the fridge. I use his cow juice for baking things he will eat and I eat them too. Usually there isn't enough milk to cause problems for me in baked goods.

You might notice I don't add sugar, salt, or vanilla to my milk. I have always hated those flavored overly sweet milks which is weird since I have a sweet tooth, but not in my milks I guess. It is better for me anyway.

So I'm off of soy milk for now. Most people do it for the cost and like my issues with flavored milks, the ability to control what goes in them. The impetus for me to do this was winter. I don't have a car. So shopping for liquid items means I have to carry them. In the summer I use my bike and it isn't a problem. But in the winter it is just too dang heavy. A few package of almonds is so much lighter.

My other totally off topic food is mushrooms. Specifically wood ear mushrooms, which are one of my favorite of the mushrooms. This is also often called black fungus. Though wood ear mushrooms sounds more appetizing doesn't it? I get them occasionally from our local hot pot restaurant. Yum. But there isn't any place here to get them easily on foot. I could go into Chinatown. I'm sure I could get anything there, but it would probably take about an hour to get in on the subway. I'm spoiled. I like things close that I can walk to. That way I get my exercise and my food.

But I really wanted to make some mooshi. The recipe I had called for dried wood ear mushrooms and dried lily buds. So I found them on Amazon* and ordered them. The lily buds were an epic fail. They tasted like nothing. But the above dried mushrooms* owned (note to self: never play computer games right before writing a blog post).

After experimentation I found that putting just half of one of those tiny blocks into a pint jar of water was more than enough for mooshi. They really are the amazing expanding mushrooms.

This is what they are like after 24 hours. They totally fill the jar and the mushrooms go back to their original shape. And the taste is awesome. I even save the water they soak in. I've been using to replace some of the broth in my dishes that have mushrooms.

*Disclaimer: I've received no compensation from anyone discussed in this blog page.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Harvest Monday, February 24th, 2014

Lunches this week were mostly soups. I'm slowly using up the cabbage soup that I made last fall. I would happily eat this twice as many times if I had enough in the freezer. Also since it is premade it is an easy lunch. If nothing is in the fridge and I'm starving I can just grab cabbage soup.

Then I made some beef stew with a lot of vegetables from the freezer. In addition to the four cups of frozen veg you see here (grated zucchini, celery, and butternut squash), there were two onions from the garden.

I don't actually add a lot of beef to my stew compared to vegetables. I used a quart of beef stock and a half pound of stew beef. Unlike most people who keep their beef in large chunks, I cut mine into cubes about a centimeter wide. That way I get small cubes of beef in most bites. What gives the most texture to the soup is the mushrooms from the store that I mince up. But even when cooked for about two hours they have a bite to them.

Bean burgers with Boston baked beans, carrots, and pickles. This was the first jar of pickles I opened up and I'm declaring them a success. I used Pickle Crisp (calcium chloride) in my pickles for the first time. I usually don't like home canned spears as they are so mushy, but this worked. They were nicely crisp.

The cashew chicken actually had very few of my home preserved ingredients. Just garlic I think. Oh wait. And celery too.

I'm still working on finding a substitute for tomato based spaghetti sauce. I used a cheesy sauce this time. I love it as mac and cheese, but it didn't hold up to spaghetti. I'm thinking I should just make a batch of mac and cheese and freeze it as i love that. Then I could have it as my pasta when my husband has spaghetti. But he can't have the cheese and I can't have the tomatoes so we just aren't fitting in where pasta is concerned.

And in my attempt to get my husband to eat more salmon I tried making salmon patties for the first time. I fried them in olive oil. Olive oil has a low smoke point so you have to be careful not to get it too hot. But it works well once you learn how to do it - and use very high quality oil. Not adulterated oil. But you can taste if your olive oil is high quality or not. I picked the brand I like by a taste test.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Harvest Monday, February 17th, 2014

Looking out my front window

We saw a lot of snow last week. So no harvests. But as usual I did use up some of my saved harvests from last year.

This is my wonton soup. Now none of the vegetables you see in this were from the garden. I do have carrots, but I was using up some bought carrots from a party as I don't have a lot of mine left. But the wontons, which I swear are in there, are made with my garden vegetables.

Pizza is a favorite food of most people in the US. But I can't eat tomato sauce, so I'm always trying something weird. I think my last experiment was the best. I started with cranberry sauce - homemade, but not homegrown, layered that with some pureed squash that was cooked down to get rid of all the excess water, and added a layer of squeezed out spinach. The cheddar cheese was layered on very thinly. But oh my gosh. This was a pizza made in heaven. Oh so good. I'll have to make more. I think I might have to make some cranberry sauce next fall (can I get cranberries still?) that are a bit less sweet. I think the squash adds a lot of sweetness too and the cranberries for this need less sugar than what I put on my chicken and turkey. From the garden we had squash, spinach, and a pinch of oregano.

Since that turned out so well I tried layering a wrap with cranberry sauce, chicken, purple sweet potatoes (from the garden), and cheese. That wasn't nearly as good. I think what made the pizza so good was the smooth almost buttery squash (though there was no butter in there).

You can see here I was using up the leftover spinach and squash from the pizza (the green beans are also from the garden). I freeze them in packets and the pizza didn't need them all so I just ate them the next night. But the main dish was a seafood risotto. My goal for this winter was to try to get some vegetables into my veggie hating husband. My plain vegetables he won't touch as he doesn't like the texture of them. So I've been seeing what I can hide inside a meal. The risotto has onions (from the garden), mushrooms, and Chinese cabbage pureed before adding to the rice. Though it is far from a culinary masterpiece, it came out decent. I've never made risotto before. I'll probably make it again.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Harvest Monday, February 10th, 2014

The garden is locked in snow still. Though I do have that path shoveled to the compost pile. Right now the "compost" is frozen as is typical in the winter. But since I'm still cooking, I still make scraps.

I did finally cook up some more squash.

Those got divided up into cup+ portions and put in the freezer. We did use one to make some squash casserole for my daughter. I swear she would eat that every day if I made it. But I don't have nearly enough squash for that.

I thought for the cooked food I'd show you some of my lunches. Some like this are filled with my garden produce. Onions, garlic, and lots and lots of Chinese cabbage. Yum.

Others have a little less and more bought produce. This had my black beans and some garlic, but not much else.

And this is my favorite lunch photo. Isn't it colorful? This contained garlic from the garden that I mashed into the avocado. And to the side we have sweet potato salad with my sweet potatoes, red onions, and mustard from the garden.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Harvest Monday, February 3rd, 2014

As typical this time of the year, I've got no harvests so the post is all about using my stored vegetables (and beans). This week was the week of the mashed sweet potato. They are so easy to make except for peeling them. I steam them with their skins on in the microwave. I put a little water at the bottom of the bowl and cover with an inverted plate. Typically three minutes is long enough then I let them sit for a few minutes more. I add a little butter, salt, and water or broth and mash them with a fork. Yum.

My dinners tend to have two vegetables in them. One green vegetable and one some other color. So it is usually carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes. But last week I seemed to only want mashed purple sweet potatoes for some reason.

This week I'll have to roast some squash to start getting a bit more variety in my food. But I did have one squash meal. We had spaghetti and since I can't eat tomato sauce, I had squash sauce. I'm OK with the sauce, but it is just OK. It doesn't get me excited at all. I like pesto, but I don't want to eat it on a regular basis. All the fat messes with my system.

And my sweet potato kick didn't stop with my house. I cooked some up for the Superbowl.

Since I can't eat chili I brought black bean and sweet potato soup. Which is probably a good thing as there were four different chilis at the party. And since it was vegan anyone could eat it.

Also featured in the chili was some green coriander - they look greener in real life. One of my other blogging friends (Michelle maybe?) talked about how good green coriander was compared to the mature harvested seed. And I so concur. The green one is more complex and much stronger. I'll have to remember to pick more at this stage this year.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.