Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taking Stock

The Dark Days Challenge starts tomorrow and I am very excited to participate and eager to share my results. In order to help prepare for forthcoming meals and to have a better idea of what local foods we have in our tiny kitchen I've taken stock of our local food items. The results are below the photo of our overstuffed freezer.

2 pints Strawberry Jam
3 pints Peach halves in syrup
3.5 pints Peach Butter
4 pints Triple Berry Jam
5 pints Apple Butter
5.5 pints Blueberry Spread
4 quarts Pasta Sauce
1.75 oz Dill
12 oz Mint
2 lbs assorted Pestos & Basil
2.5 lbs sliced bell peppers
6 oz sliced Hungarian hot peppers
2.75 lbs corn
2.5 lbs green beans
4.5 lbs strawberries
1.5 lbs blackberries
1.5 lbs cranberries
18 ounces blueberries
18 ounces raspberries
1.5 lbs cranberries
5 portions Kale & Bean Soup
3 portions Potato/Leek Soup
14 oz thick cut Bacon (Stillman's Farm)
8 oz Bacon (Vermont Smokehouse)
3 lbs assorted sausage (Stillman's Farm)
3 dozen cheddar & leek muffins
5 portions homemade tater tots
Local Eggs
Regional Milk
Local Cheese
1 jar bell peppers in oil
1 small jar cranberry butter
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch parsnips
1 bunch radish
5-6 portions of turkey chili
Local Cider
Assorted Winter Squash
1.25 lbs Carrots
4 oz Parsnips
3 Onions
4 shallots
5 heads Garlic
1 bunch radish
8 lbs assorted Potatoes
Regional Flour
Regional Pancake Mix

Below is a photo of the collection of canned goods we have as of this morning, along with the one edible plant I am currently growing. A lovely rosemary plant I purchased at the farmers market 3 weeks ago.
Space is out a premium in our small kitchen so I am really pleased with the great variety of local food products we have to carry us well into winter. We are fortunate that one of my favorite local farms continues their Saturday farmers market until the week before Christmas. With a farm open so late into the year in addition to all we've saved from our garden and local farms as well as Winter Farmers Markets picking up in early January and lasting through late March we now have nearly year round access to local foods!
I am looking forward to meals which focus on local ingredients and challenging myself in the kitchen to incorporate what we have on hand into our meals.
As soon as I have a better idea of the participants in my group I will be sure to share those details. In past Dark Days Challenges the participants and recaps were split into groups by region, however this year some changes have been made and we have been split into various groups. I'll share any details worth sharing as they come in!
What local foods have you put up for the winter? Are they just from your garden or from local farms as well?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Harvest Totals

My growing season is long over and the dark days are practically here. For my own records here are my harvest totals for 2010. This post is more for my own record keeping purpose's so go ahead and ignore it, more interesting content is surely on it's way!



Basil-3.160 lbs/1.433 kg
Scallions .25 oz/7.08 g
Chives-5.60 oz/ 158.76 g
Garlic Chives .5o oz/14.17 g
Cilantro-2 oz/56.70 g
Dill-3.25 oz/92.13 g
Parsley-11 oz/311.84 g
Sage-3.35 oz/94.97 g
Spearmint-11.53 oz/ 326.87 g
Beets-8.25 oz/233.88 g
Carrots-13.15 oz/372.80 g
Dry Beans -1.009 lbs/457.67 g
Mesclun-1.091 lbs/494.70 g
Onion-1.05 oz/29.77 g
Potato-1.659 lbs/752.51 g
Romaine-1.134 lbs/514.54 g
Spinach-1.10 oz/31.18 g
Tomatoes(Red)32.649 lbs /14.809 kg
Tomatoes(Green)3.44 lbs/1.56 kg
Wax Peppers- 1.787 lbs/810.57 g
Bell Peppers-3.631 lbs/1.647 kg
Cabbage-11.65 oz/ 330.27 g
Radish-1.2 lbs/544.331 g
Leeks- 3.116 lbs/ 1.413 kg
Bush Beans 11.85 oz/ 335.94 g
Kale 2.934 lbs/1.331 kg
Raspberry 1.5 oz/42.52 g
Total: 63.84 lbs/ 28.96 kg

Some great successes and a few failures. Worth noting for when I plan for next year!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

No matter if you, like me will be gathered with loved ones celebrating thanksgiving tomorrow. Regardless of ones nationality it is always nice to take pause and give thanks. First and foremost I am thankful for my friends and loved ones. I am thankful for their continued good health and mine.
I am thankful to have a garden to call my own. I am thankful for each and every harvest and for all the memories of planting, weeding, growing, harvesting, and eating. I am thankful for all the great tips, advice, and encouragement I have gotten from my own readers and from other blogs.
Whether you celebrate or not I hope you can take a moment and reflect on what you are thankful for this year. I'll be back on Monday with more cooking, just in time for the Dark Days!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday Baking

As has been the trend the last 3 weeks I spend Sunday afternoon baking. This week was another batch of butternut squash & walnut bread along with more cheddar & leek muffins. The results of both were great!
The Butternut Squash Walnut Bread was a modification of a basic pumpkin walnut bread, it came out soft and perfectly moist inside with a delightfully crunchy crust.
Butternut Squash Walnut Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup cooked butternut squash puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In a second bowl mix squash puree, oil, honey, eggs, water, nutmeg, cinnamon, & ginger. Pour wet contents over dry ones and stir until combined. Once combined stir in walnuts. Pour mixture into buttered loaf pan, topping with any extra chopped walnuts. Bake 60 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

I used the same recipe as last week for another batch of Cheddar & Leek Muffins:
We now have nearly 3 dozen frozen muffins for the winter! I'm sure they will be making many appearances in my Dark Days Challenge recaps.

Did you do any cooking or baking this weekend? If so, what'd you make??

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cider in the City - Allandale Farm.

Wednesday night was Allandale Farms antique apple event Cider in the City. The event was packed with lots of kids running around and filling up on apples, cheese, cider donuts, and cider!
Cider in the City featured some great apple related products:
Farnum Hill Cider was on hand offering samples of their Semi-Dry and Extra-Dry sparking ciders as well as Extra-Dry and Kingston Black Reserve still ciders. Located at Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, NH they believe in the traditional meaning of cider, - an alcoholic beverage fermented from apples, similar to wine, but replacing grapes with apples. Gail and I preferred the sparkling ciders. I ended up coming home with a bottle of the Semi-Dry sparkling cider which I will be enjoying on thanksgiving.
Also on hand were cider donuts from courtesy of local bistro Vee Vee. I've never met a cider donut I didn't like. Though I prefer them warm and fresh the offering from Vee Vee was more dense then usual but utterly satisfying. The extra's made for a great companion to my morning coffee yesterday and today!
The real highlight for me was the Scott Farm (Dunnerston, VT) antique (heirloom) apples such as Ashmead's Kernel, Hudson's Golden Gem, and Roxbury Russet paired with savory cheeses like 2 year aged Grafton Cheddar, Valdeon Blue, and a truly delicious Chevre Noir from Fromagerie Tournevent of Chesterville, Que Canada. What is Chevre Noir? It is a goats milk cheese made in the cheddar style! Unique and delicious.
Speaking of cheddar, while at Allandale I grabbed a 7 oz. wedge of Ford Farm traditional farmhouse cheddar. While not local, Ford Farm cheese's are made using traditional slow production methods and bear the EU Protected Designation of Original seal.
Cider in the City obviously also featured both hot and cold cider as well as a cider press demonstration which many of the children were mesmerized by. Not to mention a delightful barrel fire which would have been nice to warm up next to had it not been a balmy 60 degrees all afternoon.
All in all it was an excellent way to wind down after work and enjoy a variety of cheeses and apple products. A wonderful celebration of the fall harvest, we came home with a bottle of hard cider, a bag of antique apples, a pound of cheese and half a dozen cider donuts.

"Life has been pretty good. Who am I kidding it's been grand." ~Al Schnier - moe.

How have YOU been celebrating the fall harvest season??

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kitchen Art

As I mentioned last month, I was in Nashville for a few days with Gail. One stop on our trip that I did not share was a visit to Hatch Show Print one of the nation's oldest letterpress print shops. Founded in 1879 the shop has been printing posters for concerts, musicians, advertisements, vaudeville acts, the circus and much much more.
During our visit a poster caught Gail's eye. We immediately agreed it belonged in our kitchen. It finally came back from the framers today, and it looks fantastic:
The simple chart of common kitchen measurements is printed from the oldest typeface the shop has, dating back to Hatch Show Prints opening. A bit about Hatch Show Print can be found on the back:
I am so happy this understated piece of art will hang in the kitchens of my life, starting with the one I currently occupy. A huge thanks to the great people at Framers' Workshop who did such a great job framing the poster. Gail and I have framed posters on our own with their help and are happy to support a great local business. I encourage any Bostonians to visit them for your framing needs.

Do you have any food or garden themed stuff hanging in your kitchen?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It begins all over again...

Monday I posted my final harvest of the season and a few shots of a put to bed plot. In that post a ready asked if I was already planning for the spring. Half jokingly I replied that I had been planning for next year as soon as I had started working this year. The truth is that I learned a tremendous amount this year and will definitely put it to use next year!
While my post was loading on Monday my mailman left a surprise that already points to next years growing season:
Despite the grainy cellphone pic it's clear that the first 2 seed catalogs for 2011 have arrived with High Mowing Organic Seeds and Pinetree Garden Seeds taking honors for earliest arrivals. I am mostly set with seeds but it never hurts to look through the catalogs and daydream of more space and more veggies!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

more Baking!

As previously mentioned I am working to expand my baking skills. With that in mind I had some serious practice last week. Friday I attempted Focaccia and a true Sourdough and Sunday I baked some Cheddar and Leek Muffins! The results were mixed but leaned toward satisfying and worth an encore performance.
First off the above focaccia was fluffy inside, had a nice crunchy crust and was packed with flavor. I sprinkled sage, oregano minced garlic and shredded parmigiano-reggiano. A little more practice and I'll be adding this to my regular food making rotation.

Next up is the below 2 loaves of sourdough I made using King Arthur's extra tangy sourdough recipe as my guide.

The final product was tangy, but ended up being a little too dense for me to consider it truly successful. The crust also left something to be desired. Nevertheless the results were edible. Certainly a bread which resembles sourdough, but not quite there yet.

Last up were the delicious Cheddar and Leek Muffins from Apartment Therapy sub-site The Kitchn.
In short, these muffins were full of savory fall flavor, and weren't all that difficult to make. I highly suggest heading to the above link and baking a dozen or 5 right now! Just look at the final product:

Up next is most probably another soda bread, another attempt at sourdough, and something random and fun.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Harvest Monday November 15th 2010 (Final Harvest)

This week marks my final harvest of 2010. Picture above is the last of what was growing for this year in the garden:
Kale 1.996 lbs
Bringing the grand total for my first season of gardening too: 63.84 lbs!!!
I am incredibly proud of all the hard work Gail & I have done over the season. We went into this with no previous knowledge and experience with gardening and managed to produce a bounty worth being proud of!
We aren't seasoned pros or experienced gardeners, but we will certainly take our experiences with us into next years garden. Hopefully we will be even more successful!
Just because we are done harvesting for the year doesn't mean the blog will stop, in fact it will pick up with garden recaps, cooking, and future plans so stay tuned!!
Below are a couple of pictures of plot Z-1 at the Fenway Victory Gardens laid to rest until the spring...

If you want to see what others are harvesting or share in your own bounty, stop by Daphne's Dandelions the home of Harvest Monday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dark Days are coming. Will you take up the challenge?

The days are getting colder and shorter, the last farmers markets that remain open will close for the season just before thanksgiving. Winter, the dark days make it harder to eat locally and seasonally but it definitely isn't impossible. Canning food, freezing food, winter markets, and some planning make it possible to eat locally even throughout the winter. It isn't easy but it's definitely possible!
Laura over at (not so) Urban Hennery has set up the 4th Annual Dark Days Challenge, which I'm an excited participant for the first time. The Dark Days Challenge encourages folks to continue eating locally through the coldest and darkest days of the seasons. From December 1st 2010 - April 15th 2011 participants in the challenge will be cooking four meals each month (1 per week) focused on SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients and documenting our experiences.

More details and info can be found at the 4th Annual Dark Days Challenge post at (not so) Urban Hennery but I will share some of my own info here.

What is local?
There is a great point of contention regarding what is considered local food. For the purpose of the challenge I will consider anything within 150 mile radius of my current address as local. The below map shows my 150 miles radius.
courtesy of free map tools.
As you can see a 150 mile radius from my the condo Gail & I reside it includes all of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, most of Connecticut, parts of eastern New York state, the southern half of Vermont, most of New Hampshire, and parts of southern Maine. The boundary extends in the southeast to Stamford, CT & Brentwood Long Island, NY, looking west Poughkeepsie, Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, and Lake George, NY all fall within 150 miles. This radius takes me well beyond Rutland and Montpellier, VT nearly to St. Johnsbury, VT. To the north my local food circle reaches Berlin, NH and almost to August, ME.
Using the above map helps illustrate just how much locally produced foods can be found within 150 miles of my home.
As I teach myself to make homemade bread this winter, many of my experiments will fall within this radius because King Arthur Flour of Norwich, VT is only 113 miles away! With a little bit of effort, planning and preparation I am confident that I will rise to the challenge and successfully cook and eat one meal per week focusing on SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) ingredients.

Are you interested in participating in the Dark Days Challenge?
If so, head over to (not so) Urban Hennery to get the full run down and to sign up, but make sure to do so prior to midnight November 21st, 2010 and don't forget to tell your friends!

If you don't feel like joining in on the fun, then stay tuned to see how myself and other Dark Days Challengers fare!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bread & Cake

I love to cook, but I am not much of a baker. My goal for the winter is to expand my baking skills.
With that in mind I've been reading and learning about bread making, specifically sourdough bread. Until recently I had never made a yeast based bread in the oven. Or baked a cake.
Both of these facts changed this past weekend, with surprisingly positive results!
Friday Night, after bringing my sourdough starter to life(more on this in a later post) during the week I was ready to take the plunge. For my first attempt I tried a not sour Rustic Sourdough Bread from the good folks at King Arthur Flour. You can see the original recipe 2 loaves, so I cut everything in half and made a slight alteration. I'm incredibly pleased with the results:
The bread was chewy and flavorful with a medium brown crust. The original recipe called just for all-purpose flour, but I wanted something a little heartier so I made a slight alteration. My version of the recipe is below:
Rustic (not so sour) Sourdough Bread:
based on/inspired by King Arthur Flour's recipe.
3/4 cup 'fed' sourdough starter
3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 to 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1) Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a ball of smooth dough.

2) Cover and allow the dough to rise in a bowl until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

3) Gently shape the dough into an oval loaf, and place it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

4) Spray the loaf with lukewarm water

5) Make two or three fairly deep horizontal slashes in each

6) Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

As you can see I was going for a heartier loaf then the original recipe called for. Adding the 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour did the trick. Later in the week I'll be attempting a true sourdough (using only my starter, and not any additional yeast).

The baking firsts continued on Saturday. Last week I mentioned the two great cookbooks Gail and I had recently acquired. In that post I mentioned I had been salivating over some of the recipes in the 'Fresh Flavors of Israel Cookbook' one of them being the Apple with Honey Upside Down Cake. In my quest to tweak my baking skills I dove in and tried baking the cake, which yielded fairly positive and quite delicious results.

I say the results of the cake were only fairly positive because of a slight miscalculation. The original recipe called for a 10-inch spring-form pan, we only had a 9-inch pan available. I did not adjust the baking temperature/time to account for a thicker cake, so the center was gooey, but the cake itself was moist, sweet and delectable. A real fall inspired treat!
Upside-down Apple and Honey Cake
from 'Fresh Flavors from Israel' cookbook
Ingredients (for a 10 in/26 cm spring-form pan):
Apple Topping:
2 tablespoons oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tart baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4 in slices.
3 eggs
3/4 cup cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup apple juice, warm. (I used warm apple cider)
2 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves.
1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Prepare the topping: Cover the bottom and walls of the pan with the oil. Sprinkle on a uniform coating of the brown sugar. Arrange apples in one dense layer.
3) Prepare the cake: Beat the eggs with the brown sugar for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add oil and honey and beat until smooth. Add the warm apple juice and mix well.
4) In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Add to the eggs and honey batter and mix until just combined. Once mixed pour batter over pan.
5) Bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out dry with a few crumbs sticking. Cook in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the pan over a large flat serving plate, release the spring and gently lift off the ring. Serve at room temperature.
The cake is perfect for fall. I'll definitely make it again, and when I do I will remember to adjust for a smaller pan!

What are you baking this fall??

Monday, November 8, 2010

Harvest Monday November 8th 2010

The growing season is almost entirely done. Nearly the entire garden is put to bed. I've packed away most of my supplies and tools. Beds are mulched with straw, covered in tarps and put to rest until the spring. We pulled the last of this years crops aside from a few Kale plants this weekend:

Leeks 1.792 lbs
Kale 15 oz
Radish 4.35 oz
Parsley 4.15 oz
Sage 2.80 oz
Scallions .25 oz
Raspberry 1.5 oz
This weeks total: 3.545 lbs/1.608 kg
Season Total: 61.84 lbs/ 28.05 kg
Harvest total in the sidebar has been updated. I am very happy we've hit another (probably the last for the season) milestone: 60+ lbs in our first year gardening! Definitely something to be proud of!
What is that at the bottom of the harvest list?? Raspberries!!!!

Gail and I managed to bring enough raspberries home that we could weigh them. Usually they don't make it home, but fresh raspberries in November made for a nice snack on Saturday afternoon!

If you want to see what others are harvesting or share in your own bounty, stop by Daphne's Dandelions the home of Harvest Monday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

BlueQ dish towels.

Gail and I are fans of dish towels as we hand wash all of our dishes, they come in handy. We recently added a few more dish towels from the great folks at Blue Q to our already existing collection. What makes Blue Q so great? Along with fun and quirky prints for their dish towels and their other products they believe everything should be manufactured with the very best quality. As their website states:
if you ever had any questions about our factory standards overseas, environmentally responsible manufacturing, the way we look at employees, labor practices and wages you can rest assured that it is the Very Best Quality. We don't compromise when manufacturing something that is affordable and desirable. We just want you to be happy. We do everything for you. Yes. You.
As if $9.99 for each towel wasn't reasonable enough, BlueQ offers factory seconds on some merchandise, dish towels included for $4.99!
Here's a look at the BlueQ dish towels that have ended up in our kitchen:
You're The Cream In My Coffee
Eat Local
Eat At Home
Emotionally Unstable

Check out more BlueQ dish towels, as well as their extensive product list at their website.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First Frost & New Cookbooks.

The first real frost of the season came last night November 2nd. When I headed out for work this cold dark morning frost was easily seen across the ground as well as on the all the windshields. The Fenway Gardens are only 2 miles down the road from me and I expect the garden was just as frosty last night. I'll be doing one of my final harvests of the season this weekend as I inch closer to closer to closing the plot up for the season.
As I switch from active gardening to cooking hearty foods I turn to blogs, websites, and cookbooks for new recipes to try out. Gail and I recently acquired 2 new cook books recently that we are looking forward to delving into:
My parents recently traveled to Israel to visit family, friends, and see the sights. While visiting her nephew my mother mentioned my garden and this blog. My cousin sent along a copy of "Fresh Flavors from Israel" a simple and straightforward collection of 60 recipes inspired by traditional Jewish Israeli and Middle Eastern cooking. The recipes were created with simplicity and ease in mind. Published by the editors of Israel's premier food and wine magazine. I've been salivating over the recipes such as garlic hummus, stuffed pepper schnitzel, lamb neck & root vegetables, leg of lamb stuffed with haroset, and apple with honey upside down cake! I can't wait to try some of these new dishes out, they all look really great.

The second cookbook arrived in the mail this week. Gail contributed to the most recent pledge drive for our fantastic local NPR affiliate and as a thank you they sent her a copy of the Ruth Reichl edited "Gourmet Today" is a repository of 1000+ recipes. This encyclopedic tome is full of recipes from around the globe, many designed to be prepared quickly and simply. Along with all the recipes "Gourmet Today" also features menu suggestions encompassing all four seasons and a number of holidays, as well as a glossary of ingredients and sidebars throughout which focus in specific ingredients and proven cooking techniques and tips! Gail and I have already thumbed through it looking for inspiration as we continue to cook our way through the seasons.

As the weather shifts for many of us from heat to cold and we desire heartier foods to keep our souls and bodies warm, where are you finding your cooking inspiration and ideas these days?