May 30, 2011

A Day Off

Today was an unexpected day off for me. It started with pancakes.

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I did a bit of work, but decided that in honor of an unplanned day, Ray and I decided we should stop working and go on an adventure.

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We walked by a river in a lush green park (with tons of other people out enjoying the day, too).

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We hopped in this little buggy and took a ride around. It was a silly, but perfect for our spontaneous outing.

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The weather was very summery and I couldn't resist making a batch of strawberry creme fraiche sherbet.

Now I am going to spend the rest of the evening not working. I hope you had a nice start to your week, too!

May 27, 2011

Why Not?

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I was reading this blog post when I came across this question which, for some reason, really resonated with me. I have spent ages thinking about what I really want to do, and trying to pinpoint exactly what it is. I have spent years doing what made sense at the time, knowing that eventually I would be able to do something that I really wanted to do and cared about even more. Since we've moved, I've been in a bit of a limbo -- needing to make and save money by working a job that is convenient but not gratifying, but trying hard to spend time creating something worthwhile.

There have been many times in the past several months when I've felt like I've been working really hard but not getting anywhere. I know it takes time to find success in a creative venture. But still I wonder, am I doing what I really love? There are so many questions in my mind -- does doing what I love mean that is how I earn a living? How can I earn a living doing what I love? What exactly is it that I love and want to do?

Its good to ask these questions, to rethink things and get a better idea of where I will go from here. I will keep pondering, but mostly I wanted to share this question with you. Are you doing what you love? Yes? No? Why Not?

May 25, 2011

Green Garlic and Arugula Pesto

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When you work all day outside, pulling and hoeing weeds, and you come home with a bunch of green garlic, freshly picked, still caked in soil and you are so hungry and have been wracking your brain all day to think of what to make for dinner, well here is what you do.

You wash off the green garlic, take one of the stems, cut off the roots and discard. Chop the rest of the green garlic, all the way up the green part, into one inch pieces.*  Drop them into the bowl of the food processor. Put a pot of water on to boil and take a package of whole wheat pasta out of the cupboard.

Dinner will be ready soon, just a few more things you have to do. Take some sunflower seeds (about 1/4 cup) and toast them until they are golden brown. Drop these into the food processor with the chopped green garlic. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, some grated parmesan and enough fresh arugula to nearly fill the food processor. Top with a squeeze of lemon and the let the machine whir. As it pulverizes the leaves, shoots and seeds, pour in enough olive oil to create a soft paste -- a pesto.

When the water is boiling, add enough pasta for you and anyone else who will be sharing your meal. When the pasta is cooked, drain out most of the water, but leave enough to turn the pesto into a sauce that will cling to the strands of pasta. Mix as much of the pesto as you wish with the pasta and the bit of cooking water.

Before you dig into this simple pasta with green green garlic and arugula pesto, remember this is a different pesto than you might be used to. It is a bit spicy, a bit bitter, and very green. Don't expect it to taste like the basil pesto that will be to die for during the height of summer. This one lively and unexpected like spring and the first taste of something grown in the soil nearby.

*green garlic is young garlic, pulled before it makes a bulb in the ground, or the new shoots that have grown up from a bulb of garlic that stayed for another year in the ground. It looks a bit like a large scallion or a leek, but it tastes like garlic, just a little less strong. I suspect lots of farms in the northern part of the USA have it this time of year, but if you can't find it you can use regular garlic.

May 23, 2011

Johnstock 2011

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I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in a parking lot on Johnson Street in Northeast Minneapolis. This particular parking lot is adjacent to shops and restaurants that make up the Johnson Street Merchants Association and sponsor the yearly neighborhood festival, Johnstock. There were about 15 other vendors selling their handmade wares including, Threaded Basil, Foxy Squirrel, Mary Foster Creative, and other people making unique and fun items!

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On Saturday, we set up in the pouring rain and sat through a few more showers and downpours (my tent only leaked a little bit). Between the bouts of rain, people with umbrellas would wander through. In the afternoon it cleared up and I finally warmed up and dried off. A lot more people came out for the nice weather and to listen to the local bands playing, but I was impressed that whenever it wasn't raining really hard a fair number of people were out browsing the selection of jewelry, t-shirts, kid's clothes, cat toys, eco friendly garden bling and everything else that was for sale.

Sunday seemed like it would be a nicer day, but after a warm and almost sunny set up, a very heavy downpour passed through. Still a lot of people who had been browsing the day before came back to browse some more and buy something take home. It seemed like it was almost going to clear up but about an hour before the event was over, it started to rain again. Many of us had had enough and the severe storm warnings that might include hail and or a tornado pushed us all to pack up quickly and get home and dry.

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It could have been a better weekend to be selling things outside, but it was nice to meet other crafters, see what people were making and selling, and to experience a bit of another neighborhood and community.

May 20, 2011

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I had planned to write more today, but I've been busy getting ready for this weekend at Johnstock. I have my 10x10 tent, but I'm crossing my fingers that the weather will not be rainy as predicted. I'll be back next week to let you know how it goes. Have a lovely weekend!

May 18, 2011

Spring Work

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It's a busy time of year and between various jobs and trying to get things together for an upcoming fair this weekend, I haven't had time for much else. But, though I am very tired when I get home from working on the farm, I do appreciate the feeling of doing physical work all day. It makes it harder to get other things done, but the days are long this time of year and I get to relish the lingering daylight while I cook dinner and do some work in the evening.

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I have been enjoying my little porch garden with the back door open and breezes wandering through the screen. I've got a good variety of herbs and I look forward to when I can step out the door and cut a few leaves or stalks to add to our meal. The peas are also up and getting ready to climb. If you are interested in more ideas for your own container garden, I wrote this article about how to get started.

I haven't been doing as much sewing as usual, since I am spending more time at the farm. But I am looking forward to the fair this weekend and have a few more things to finish up (I hope) later this week.

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May 16, 2011

Abundant and in Season

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We hit up the Saint Paul farmer's market on Saturday and despite the cold and rain the stalls were splashed with the bright greens of seedlings ready for planting, bunches of thin stalked asparagus, loaves of bread, cartons of eggs. It was good to see lots of other shoppers reaching eagerly for the first goods of spring. I couldn't help but grab multiple bunches of rhubarb, the red stalks of a vegetable that is so often made sweet.

As I considered what to do with my rhubarb, I was reminded of one of the tenets of eating locally. Eat lots of what is in season, enjoy it to the utmost because once it is gone you won't see it until next season. I'm rereading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which chronicles her family's year of eating locally and it reminds me of the beauty of savoring and relishing what we have now for, in this northern climate, it won't last long. This also helps me to feel a little less greedy when I can't help but grab several bunches of whatever is abundant and new.

We had friends over for brunch on Sunday and I made short work of the rhubarb. I boiled and strained it into a sweet rhubarb syrup which can be mixed with seltzer for a not too sweet rhubarb soda. It also goes quite nicely mixed with some champagne.

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I was going to make this rhubarb compote, but instead used it in a big crumb coffee cake. I'm still thinking about some other ways to use rhubarb, I'll have to go to the market and get some more while it lasts. What have you been enjoying that is abundant and in season?

May 11, 2011

Sowing Seeds

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All of the planting and seed sowing I have done recently has gotten me thinking a lot about the seeds we plant all the time and the things we choose to nurture. This started when I was writing my most recent newsletter, talking a little bit about the CSA model and the similarity between planting and nurturing seeds and the way we use our dollars to support things we care about.

There are so many areas where we can choose to plant seeds -- ideas, daily practices, projects. When the seed of an idea comes to you, do you open your mind to let in the sunshine and rain necessary to make this idea grow and come to life? I know I have so many things that I would like to see flourish in my daily life, but sometimes it is hard to find the resources I need to make these little seeds take root. I still struggle to make my yoga practice a habit and not an occasional stretching. I have a list of other things I would like to make more room and time for so they can grow.

Then there are those crazy, impractical ideas that I can't remember where they come from, a wild seed blown in by the wind. The ones that don't seem like they should survive, but they keep growing, at least in the idea stage. Sometimes these rogue ideas reach me when I need them most, other times I wonder if I should even consider making them a reality.

It takes more than just a seed to bear fruit. That is the miraculous starting point, but these little things won't grow without the proper care and attention. I wonder what kinds of seeds, literal or figurative, you have been sowing lately? What ideas have you nurtured and grown?

May 9, 2011

spring


Spring has sprung, finally. I've been doing my best to enjoy the recent beautiful day and slacking off a bit on other things I should be working on. I hope you have found spring or it has found you and that you are enjoying the sprouting, blossoming, shining, growing and warming!

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May 6, 2011

Creme Fraiche and Sweet Potatoes

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When I was cleaning and getting ready for spring a few weeks ago I needed to freshen up my routines and recipes in the kitchen, too. First I added a couple of new made from scratch staples: butter and also creme fraiche, which can become cultured butter or be enjoyed for its creamy texture and sour, cultured flavor.

I also bought a new cookbook, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. The recipes are all vegetarian, loosely categorized by ingredient. The photographs make everything look irresistible and I've had fun to trying some new flavors and ways of using vegetables. The recipe for sweet potato wedges with lemongrass creme fraiche made use of one of my new ingredients in a way I hadn't tried before. Although roasting sweet potatoes seems more of a wintery practice, these wedges would work well at a spring picnic or as part of a cook out along side whatever you are grilling. Local, spring produce is still a little ways off here, so I don't mind cooking up a batch of root vegetables, especially when they are accompanied by dipping sauce of cultured cream, lemon grass, citrus and ginger which tastes like the sweet surprise of spring.

Making creme fraiche could not be easier. If you're hesitant to try making yogurt or cheese, here is a homemade dairy product that is fool proof and does all the work for you.  Simply pour a cup of best quality heavy cream into a clean glass jar and add a quarter cup of cultured buttermilk. Stir, cover, and let sit for 12 to 48 hours until the cream is much thicker and has separated slightly (there will be a thin watery liquid as well as the thick cream). That's all there is to it. Now you can make it into cultured butter, strawberry creme fraiche sherbet (can't wait til strawberries are in season here!), use it in place of sour cream, or make this flavorful dipping sauce.


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Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Creme Fraiche
Adapted from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi
The recipe makes a lot of sauce and since we had some left over, I used it in place of sour cream with some bean and cheese quesadillas. I think it would be good on other kinds of vegetables, too.

For the Sweet Potatoes:
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
Olive Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 fresh jalapeno (or red chile) finely diced (feel free to adjust the amount to your taste)

Preheat the oven to 400'. Wash the potatoes and cut into wedges. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Brush the paper lightly with olive oil. Place the wedges on the parchment, brush them lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with the coriander and salt. Roast for about 25 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly (or serve at room temperature, they are good this way, too).

For the dipping sauce:
1/2 lemongrass stalk
3/4 cup creme fraiche
grated zest and juice of two limes
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon salt

Using the part of the stalk closer to the root (so it hasn't dried out), chop the lemongrass very finely. Whisk all of the ingredients together. When you are ready to serve, place the sweet potato wedges on a serving dish and sprinkle the cilantro and jalapeno on top. Serve with the sauce on the side. 

Serves about 4 people.

May 4, 2011

Simple Hand Salve

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Planting seeds, digging in the soil, scrubbing surfaces and getting ready for spring is an exciting chance to nurture new life. But all this work can take its toll on your hardworking hands. After a day on the farm my hands are dry and rough. I made a very simple hand salve which quickly refreshes and rejuvenates my worn fingers.

It is easy to mix up and made with ingredients that you can use in the kitchen, too. The salve doesn't soak in quickly like a lotion, but it's not greasy and it is a great cure for dry skin. I use almond oil that is found with the other cooking oils in the store, it works really well as a moisturizing body oil and it is less expensive than the almond oil in the body care section.

Homemade Hand Salve
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon grated beeswax
1 tablespoon almond oil
A few drops of your favorite essential (optional)

In a double boiler, or a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, place all of the ingredients. When the are all melted, stir them together to combine completely. Pour into a shallow, wide mouth jar or other container for easy use. Let cool completely. Rub a small amount into your hands until absorbed. Use as often as you like.

P.S. The new aprons are up in my shop.

May 2, 2011

Full of Possibilities

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I am always amazed by seeds. That these tiny, dry, sometimes strangely shaped bits can, with soil, water, and sunlight become the plants that feed and sustain us. Each seed is the potential for life and it is incredible to think of them in the dark cool earth doing what they do best, fulfilling their destiny to grow. Seeds are full of possibilities. The garden that will be, the flavors, meals, and sustenance that will be made from these minute beginnings. Each one becomes something so much bigger.

I started planting my porch container garden this weekend. I have great hopes for the pots and boxes now filled with soil and seeds, but I'm not sure how it will all turn out. The spot, right outside our back door is south facing so it should get enough sun, but a lot of that light may be blocked by a tree whose leaves will soon make even more shade.  We do have a sort of yard in the back of our building and, since everything is in containers, I can always move them to a sunnier spot if I need to.

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I have planted some herb seedlings, parsley, sage, and thyme. The basil seedlings are potted up, but I am keeping them inside until the weather gets warmer, probably later in May they will join the garden on the porch. I also planted seeds. I planted one window box with peas which are an early season crop, good in cool weather. I haven't grown them in a window box before, so I'm not sure how they'll do, but if they grow they way they are supposed to, I plan to trellis them up the the edge of the porch. The other box is planted with arugula and lettuce, which also grow well in cool weather.

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I'm not trying to grow all of my food in these containers, just focused on planting things that make good snacks right off the plant or, like herbs and greens, are great as small additions to meals or salads. I am especially hoping the herbs do well because it is so nice to have fresh herbs available whenever I need them.
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I'll be sharing more about my little garden here as things sprout and grow. I'd love to share ideas and tips, but this is somewhat new for me, too. I came across this urban/container gardening blog that seems like a great resource for those of us who are growing in very small spaces.

Have you planted anything yet?