Monday, December 13, 2010

Dark Days Challenge - Salmon Dinner

This weeks Dark Days Challenge meal consisted of salmon caught in Puget Sound; potatoes, kale, thyme and lavender grown by me; and swiss chard from my local CSA. I'm continuing to use up foods that are not from a local source and I'm getting close to the end of those stashes.

The salmon was baked with onion, and butter and lemon. The potatoes were tossed in oil, salt, thyme and lavender then baked. The kale and chard were sautéed with garlic from my neighbors garden and butter.

Dinner was delicious!

Flood Season

Yesterday there was a torrential down pour. It rained and rained and rained, then it rained some more. I alway worry when the clouds cease to dry up because the lands that many of the small local farmers use to produce flowers and food will flood. There is more rain predicted for the next couple of days.

Some of the larger farms were also in danger of being completely flooded.

There was also beauty. The delicate tents on these small trees are made of spider webs.

And the reflections on the water are stunning.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dark Days Challenge Lunch - Winter Squash Soup

My first Dark Days Challenge was a simple one. Butternut and acorn squash soup with some homemade bread toasted with cheese. The acorn squash and herbs came from my garden, the butternut squash from a local farmer, with the cream and cheese bought at the Puget Sound Consumer Co-op, I must admit I did used the prepackaged organic chicken broth that I had sitting on my storage shelves in the garage. I feel it is necessary to use what I have on hand before spending money on the local foods. On to the soup!

I recently learned how to peel a butternut squash. The key is to use the tip of a very sharp kitchen knife. It is much easier to guide the tip around the contours of the squash using the end instead of the middle of the knife. Once you get the hang of it, the done can be done quite quickly.

Put the ingredients are in the soup pot and it's about 20 minutes until done!

In the kitchen we have this hand blender that my husband insisted that he have. I thought is was a waste of valuable space and completely unnecessary....until now. This little blender does a fantastic job of pureeing squash for soup and may just become the newest best tool in the place.

Broil the bread, sprinkle with cheese and then enjoy lunch.

This challenge is really making me think about the our food distribution chain and how I, as a consumer need to control my own choices about what I purchase. Thank you Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery for inspiring us with the Dark Days Challenge.

Winter Squash Soup

Serves 8

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

3 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth

4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 cup whipping cream

For soup: Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, all squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender. (This is were I used the hand blender and left the soup in the pot) Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dark Days Challenge

I've decided to join Laura over at (not so) Urban Hennery and participate in the Dark Days Challenge.  The challenge is to cook at least one meal a week using as many sustainable, organic, local, ethical (SOLE) foods as possible. Along with the foods I'm growing, the local food network will be limited to a 150 mile radius of Seattle. My exceptions to SOLE will be sugar, spices, oils & vinegars, some cheeses and coffee.

I think this a great challenge for everyone and I'm looking forward to learning more about my local resources and sharing my experiences with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Day!

Last night the first big snow arrived along with chilly temperatures in the teens. I always enjoy the first snow of the season, I find it joyful. The ladies on the other hand were not at all impressed and needed a little coaxing to get out of the coop this morning.  I did weatherize the coop by sealing up the windows and placing a heat lamp close to the nesting boxes.

Here are the last of the raspberries.

While the temperature outside is about 22 degrees fahrenheit, it's almost 50 degrees in the hoophouse. Good for the winter greens.

And the signs of next season.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Settling in For the Winter

Remember the hoophouse I built over one of my garden boxes last spring? Well, I've set it back up and hopefully will be able to grow some awesome veggies through the winter.  Currently I have kale, mixed lettuce greens, arugula, and chard growing. I planted spinach, but it surprisingly didn't do well. Spinach has always seemed a sure fire success. Hmmmm??

I'm going to look at my local nurseries to see if I can locate some other veggie seedlings to plant for the winter.  To supplement my family's needs for winter veggies, I'm going to join a CSA. Does anybody in Seattle have any feedback on the local CSA's?

The 2010 summer season was tough on harvestable edibles, but the learning curve was great.  I've learned that the local deer really rely on my garden as a food source and I will be putting up some fencing and fishing line this winter.  I also figured out that I need to sow more seeds earlier in the season to encourage a better harvest of everything. Additionally,  I'll be  and looking into some organic methods to curtail the fungus I think is lurking on the fruit trees and in one of the veg beds. My neighbor loaned me her soaker hose for the potato patch and that made a real difference on the time I had to spend watering that 30' bed and also helped to conserved a lot of water. I see more irrigation being engineered into my gardens.  Many new things to implement for before next spring arrives!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Fall Garden Walk

The Seattle area has been smiled upon by the sun and warm weather. Today, my thermometer read 71 degrees, isn't it November?  I took a walk around the garden and was pleased to see that the fall veggies are doing well, a couple of the dahlias are still full of color, the Tulameen raspberries are still producing fruit and the moon!

My arugula, lettuce and kale are looking wonderful and healthy. I'll look forward to eating them in the near future.  It's a wonderful feeling not having to buy these veggies from the store!

To my delight, the some of the dahlias have managed to survive being pummeled by the rain and the first light frost.

The raspberries are also managing to continue to ripen.  The color is so inviting that I keep thinking that the flavor will be that of the summer berries, but there hasn't been that much sun to develop that juicy sweet flavor. They are more muted in taste so the Ladies are enjoying them this fall.

Speaking of Ladies, the new hens are just starting to lay and I'll be looking forward to eating fresh eggs all winter!

I also saw the disappointments of the season. It was usually cold this summer and the veggies that needed hot temperatures really struggled. I mean seriously struggled.

Tomato blight

My one and only eggplant.

A couple of peppers that aren't quit mature yet and also have blight.

My one kiwi and acorn squash survivors.

Then there are the delicata and butternut squashes that didn't get much bigger than a softball.

This is the first year that I've had such a difficult time with the veggie gardens and the fruit trees.  Not only did the weather not cooperate, but then there was all the wildlife that needed to feast on everything that was ripening. Not to worry, I'm already anticipating placing my first order for the seeds for next years garden!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quillisascut - Best Apple Cider Ever

I love apples but have never been a fan of apple juice. Until apple pressing day at Quillisascut. Maybe it was because I was there when the apples were pressed, maybe it was the beautiful sunny day, maybe it was the combination of fruit we used. I don't know for sure but on this day I drank the best apple juice ever!

Start with Golden Delicious and Jonagold apples.

Grind the fruit to size.

Press the apple pieces to extract the juice.

Then strain the juice to remove any debris.

Minutes after the apples went through the press, I got this glass of amber liquid which was sweet and tart in smell, mouth watering in flavor and yes, the best apple juice ever! 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quillisascut - Pizza!

Quillisascut has a beautiful wood fired oven which we took full advantage of in our meal preparation.  Having just made fresh mozzarella and feta cheese, what else could we do but make pizza? We gathered a bounty of onions, squash, flowers, garlic, leaves, tomatoes, peppers, plumbs, a little sausage, fresh herbs and had a pizza party.

The fixings

Stoking the coals to ready the oven for our pizzas.

This amazing oven baked our pizzas beautifully and we also used it for braising the goat meat the following day.

Oh so yummy!

We cut all the pizzas up and passed the platter!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Farm School!

This month, I was invited to attend the Quillisascut Farm School of the Domestic Arts, located in Rice, Washington. Quillisascut (Quil-li-sas-cut) is a school that teaches students, chefs, people in the food industry, and anyone interested in where food come from about the farm to table connection. We had several excellent discussions about sustainability, food distribution, and how to re-educate people about the need for nutritious whole foods. The small and intimate campus has a impressive organic garden, a small herd of goats, and a cozy lodge with a professional kitchen and plenty of warm beds. But wait, there's more, the group of people I went with were all chefs! While at the school, we cooked all of our meals from the food grown on the farm, and everything was mouth wateringly delicious!

During my four day stay I learned to milk goats, make four different kinds of cheeses, how to process walnuts to extract the oil, and how to respectfully butcher a goat. There were many other lessons that I learned and I'm happy feel a more enriched and deep connection to my small urban farm.  Thank you Rick and Lora Lea Misterly for providing such a beautiful environment for the rest of us to learn.I'll be doing several postings of my adventures at the Quillisascut Farm School, be sure to stay tuned.

We arrived at the school on a crisp, sunny day, with the smell of the first frost still in the air. The main building is built out of straw bales which makes a sturdy, well insulated structure.

This alpha male is busy breeding with the females this time of year. He is incredibly friendly and oh so smelly!  I've never really known the smell of a male goat, but the musty, pungent, kinda sweet smell is now forever etched into my nose cells. The milk from this herd is the key ingredient for making the wonderful cheeses at Rick and Lora Lea's business, the Quillisascut Cheese Company, located on the property just steps away from the school.

Rick, Lora Lea, and a couple of the chefs.

All our meals were a group effort and everybody shared in the cooking and cleaning.

This is Libby the Komondor guard dog. She protects the livestock and her dreadlocks are a great natural coat of armor.

A mother duck had 13 ducklings while we were at the farm, a very unusual time of year for babies to be hatched.  The family was gathered into a stall where they would be safe from the weather and predators. Seeing these little fluffy babies makes me think of spring!

The Thanksgiving turkey, the one with the blue face.

That's me in the purple coat.