Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday 4-R's

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose!

We haven't made much headway with holiday decorations...yet. I emphasize "yet" because my husband likes to protest premature holiday decorations and celebrations. Meaning, we probably won't get a tree put up until the second full week of December - and that's purposeful, not because we're procrastinators. Due to his Scrooge-like behavior (Bah-humbug!), I have to sneak decorations one at a time.

I started by repurposing the dining room centerpiece. This year, I'm trying to go for shabby-chic and used rusty jingle bells I picked up at an after-Christmas sale a few years ago.

I then moved on to redecorating my multiseasonal, multipurposeful pine cone wreath! I picked up cheapo ribbons from Target and went to town:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Go-To Bread

The thought of making bread usually intimidates people (unless they have a breadmaker machine, which I think is cheating anyway). Around the holidays, I hand-make (and hand knead) several loaves of bread. I think bread is one of the most versitile gifts you can give.
Last year, I gave loaves of bread as "thank-yous" to neighbors who had loaned us miscellaneous items when we first moved into our home.
This Thanksgiving, I brought a loaf of bread as a gift for our generous hosts. This is a long-standing tradition in my family. Every year, my mom makes the same loaf of bread to bring to Thanksgiving. This no-knead bread is both visually appealing and delicious.

Finnish Rieska
2 c. lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp. crushed caraway seeds
1 package active dry yeast (not "quick rise")
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 c. pumpernickel rye, graham, or whole-wheat flour
3 c. bread flour

1 egg white beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Fresh herbs: sage, chives

In large mixing bowl, stir together water, yeast, brown sugar, and salt. Let stand 5 minutes until yeast begins to foam. Stir in the dark flour, then bread flour and caraway seeds. Beat well. Cover with damp dish towel and allow dought to rise in warm place until doubled, about 1-2 hours. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a large pizza pan. Coat parchment paper with dark flour. Turn dough out onto paper and flatten with your hands to make a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Cover and let rise until puffy. Preheat oven to 375. Brush top of loaf with beaten egg white and water. Arrange fresh herbs in decorative pattern on the top. Brush loaf again with egg white, making sure to coat the herbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the loaf spring back when touched. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Here's about what it should look like:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Garden Update

It may have taken a few months, but we now have our first peas!

Despite a few nights of cold temperatures (though it didn't frost in our backyard), we continue to have chilies (which I keep adding to my riesta), tomatoes, and blooms on our eggplants.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits to gardening in Middle Georgia is this crazy-long growing season. Now that it's cooler, the plants seems happier and there is virtually no bug problem. Happy plants = happy gardener!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Great Fall Tomato Harvest

Dear God of the garden,

We thank Thee for Thy mercy and protection during the first, second, and third frosts of the year. We exalt Thee for Thy provision of a bountiful harvest of tomatoes. Glory to God in the highest, Amen.

They may not be the prettiest tomatoes in the world, but you wouldn't be too pretty either if you survived three frosts, three nights in a row with nothing to protect you but a flannel sheet. As posted last week, we're also harvesting the larger green tomatoes. But these red(ish), ripe tomatoes I set my mind to tendering them to fruition. Patience pays.

In honor of our tomato bounty, I thought I'd share a recipe. This recipe was inspired by a recipe sent to me by a (vegan) college friend. She recently enjoyed vegan biscuits and gravy at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.

Kate's Tomato Gravy
2 T. Olive Oil
2 T. Flour
1 small onion, diced
1 c. green tomatoes, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 c. almond milk
1 t. lemon juice
Smoked paprika to taste (about 1 t.)
Tabasco sauce to taste (about 1 t.)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and green tomatoes; sautee until soft. Add flour and stir until a thick paste forms (also called a roux). Gradually whisk in almond milk. Gradually whisk in the canned tomatoes (plus liquid) and lemon juice. The mixture should be the consistency of thick gravy. If too thick, gently whisk in more almond milk. Stir in paprika, tabasco, salt, and pepper. Adjust according to personal preference. Serve with biscuits.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Garden Update

Nothing much came of the carrot and beet seeds I planted, but the greens (turnip, mustard, kale) seemed to do well despite hot temperatures early this fall. Now that it's cooling down, I'd expect the garden to start dying off. On the contrary! The two tomato plants that didn't produce anything all summer long are finally producing tomatoes. And in abundance, I might add! In anticipation of the coming first frost, Marcus harvested some green tomatoes (pictured below).

The pepper plants seem to not know when to stop producing also! We finally harvested some habanero peppers (pictured below), though we're not quite sure what to do with them.

Our eggplant plants are flowering again, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll get more eggplant this fall. I have a feeling in the next few days we'll be covering plants like crazy, including our more delicate herbs.