Tag Archives: farmers market

#53 (How Much Should You Can?)

As part of my 101 in 1001, I committed to completing a food storage plan. I actually sat down this winter and completed it! However, I did it the old fashioned way: with a pencil and a printed out copy. So, with canning season upon us, I decided to update the plan and bring it into the 21st century. After starting my canning for the season, I decided that it was time for a spreadsheet.

Drumroll please . . .

canning grid

Ok, so that is just a pdf version of the guide I printed from the internet. It’s a good thing though, because the link I had used to find the form before is no good anymore. If you want to print it out and do it the old-fashioned way, you can.

Here is a spreadsheet template for you to use to plan your own canning. I hope you find it useful.

My completed canning plan is a little adventurous. I think I’m going to be very busy this year. The Farmers’ Market is going strong, and I’ve already started my foraging and canning for the year, so I think I can do it, but it will be a lot of work. I’ll keep you posted.


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Dark Days: Chicken Noodle Soup

I know we’ve eaten more local meals than this, but I’ve somehow managed to avoid documenting them.  I guess I’ve been too busy working on my list

Chicken Noodle Soup

This dinner is basically chicken noodle soup.  Homemade stock with chicken from Olds Farm; homemade noodles; carrots from 9 Bean Rows; onions from my garden and thyme dug from the snow.  However, I added two links of homemade andouille sausage and as I was serving the soup I added chopped rainbow chard to this (my) bowl.  This is for two reasons.

1.  Nobody but me will eat chard.

2.  I have been working hard to finish #61 on my list; extra greens are helpful.

The soup was served with whole grain bread from Bay Bread Co.

I love soup in the winter.  Based on the weather today, we have plentyof soup days ahead of us.

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Dark Days #2

This year the posting guidlines for Dark Days are a little different.  Last year I had to make and post about a dinner each week throughout the challenge.   This year, to make it a little easier on the hostess (and her volunteer summarizers), the posts are only summarized twice a month.  So, even though I have been cooking a meal each week, I haven’t been good about posting weekly.  This post, like my lst Dark Days post, contains multiple dinners.

Pink Poatatoes!?!

First up, braised rabbit from Bunny Hop Ranch with pink mashed potatoes, rabbit gravy and 9 Bean Rows bread. 
I usually get my rabbit from Olds Farm, but I was at Oleson’s, a local gocer, and found this local rabbit in their meat case.  Hopefully soon we’ll have our own rabbit meat; our buck is just old enough to start breeding.  
The preparation was simple.  I seasoned the meat with salt, pepper and garlic, seared it on each side in a cast iron skillet, added a little water and threw it in the oven until it was finished.  Add the remaining liquid in the pan to some roux (equal parts flour and butter cooked together until they are golden) and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until a gravy forms.
The potatoes really are pink!  I don’t know what variety they are, but they came from Nic Welty at 9 Bean Rows.  Wash them, cut them into chunks and throw them into a pot of boiling salted water.  Cook until tender, drain and mash skins and all with some Shetler’s Dairy milk and butter.

Second on the docket, shepherd’s pie.


  1. Sautee some ground beef (I don’t remember which vendor at the market I got it from this time) with an onion from my garden.  Add some salt, pepper and garlic.
  2. Meanwhile, boil a pot of Westmaas farms red-skinned potatoes.  Mash the potatoes with milk and butter, season as you like.
  3. Spread the cooked ground beef in a cast-iron skillet, casserole or dutch oven.  Spread a layer of mashed potatoes on top of the beef.  Cover the whole pan with shredded Raclette cheese from Blackstar Farms and bake until the cheese melts.
  4. Serve hot.


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Dark Days

Dylan's Christmas program

Dylan's Christmas program

I hoped to start this Dark Days Challenge with a bang.  It’s more like a whimper.  Finishing report cards spent much of my “extra” time last week so I barely had time to cook let alone write about my cooking.  I also had to finish my Can Jam post early because of the holidays so that was a priority last week.  This week I’ve been working on another article for Edible Grand Traverse and it’s not coming along as smoothly as I’d hoped so I’ve been stuck on that all week.  Plus, Bubba’s School program was last night.

This post is due at midnight, so guess when it will be done?  Probably 11:59.

All three of my dinners feature dauphinoise potatoes.  Sounds fancy, no?

Not so fancy.  Souped-up scalloped potatoes.  Yummy though.


10 lbs. Wetmaas farms Redskin potatoes
1 quart Shetler Dairy heavy cream
more salt than you think reasonable
1 lb. Black Star Farms Raclette cheese
Go buy a new Kitchenaid mixer because you killed your old one.
Slice ten pounds of potatoes with the slicer attachment.
Shred a pound of Raclette with the shredder attachment.
Dump the potatoes in a large bowl and pour a quart of cream over them.  Add salt until the cream is WAY TOO SALTY.
Grease several baking dishes and rub them with minced garlic.

potatoes and toast

Dauphinoise potatoes and 9 Bean Rows bread

Squeeze all the salty cream out of the potatoes as you layer them into the dish.
Alternately add sliced potatoes, crushed garlic, thyme and cheese.
Continue to layer ingredients until the pans are full. 
Top each pan with more cheese.
Bake at 325 degrees until finished. (About an hour.)

Eat one pan by itself the night you make it.  (Yes, we ate a giant pan of cheesy potatoes for dinner; I’m not apologizing.)
Put one pan in the refrigerator.
Put two more pans in the freezer.

I reserved the super salty heavy cream to create both of my real dinners.

The first night I marinated a cornish hen from Olds Farm in salty cream and then roasted it in the oven and served it with the dauphinois from the refrigerator and 9 Bean Rows bread.  Yum.

It looks like the bird is sitting directly on the burner but I promise, it is in a pan.

The second night I made “slop”.  It’s a family favorite.  Similar to Shepherd’s Pie, slop can be made with whatever you have in the fridge.  Sometimes I top meat with mashed potatoes and cheese.  Other times I cover it with hash browns.  My mom used to make “slop” and it’s one of the things my dear hubby will actually eat.  In the old days I used a can of cream of mushroom soup.  Now I do it a little differently.  I sautéed one of the onions from my garden and added two pounds of ground beef that I got from my friend Richard at the indoor market.  I sprinkled local spelt flour over the meat, sautéed it for another minute and then dumped the rest of the salty cream into it to make a “gravy” of sorts.  Then I pulled one of the pans of dauphinoise out of the freezer, thawed it and topped the ground beef with it.  I put the whole thing into the oven and baked it until the potatoes were warmed through.  It was yummy.

ground beef topped with dauphinoise

ground beef topped with dauphinoise

 Minutes to spare.  11:54.

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December Can Jam ~ Pear/Dried Apple Chutney

When I went home for Thanksgiving, my father treated us to a pork tenderloin stuffed with a pear/dried pear filling.  Dad was pretty proud of the pork loin; it was delicious despite the inclusion of cilantro which I despise.  The timing was perfect.  This month’s Can Jam ingredient is dried fruit.  The real challenge however was converting the recipe into something can-able.  This recipe is my attempt to can the filling for future use (and possibly a Christmas gift or two.)  The original pork loin also featured a maple glaze; that recipe will be my next canning project.

Cilantro free.

Dried Apples and Chiles

Pear/Dried Apple Chutney

3 Cups green Bosc pears, sliced
2 Cups Mutsu apples, sliced
1 Cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 Cups Champion Hill Farms honey
1 Cup apple cider vinegar
1 quart dried apples (Maple Ridge Orchards Golden Delicious)
2 small red onions
4 cloves garlic
5 dried chiles chopped finely

Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Simmer over medium heat until all ingredients are well blended.  Keep chutney hot while preparing  jars and a boiling water bath.
Fill hot jars with chutney.
Remove air bubbles, add lids and rings and process in the boiling water bath 10 minutes.

I traded the fennel for the cilantro the original recipe called for.   Apple and fennel usually work well together; hopefully the flavors will bloom with time.  Use chutney to stuff cuts of meat or top fish.

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Chai Spiced Apple Rings? ~ November Can Jam

When the theme for this month’s Can Jam was announced, I was excited.  Apples are just about the perfect choice for me now.    They are in season and in abundance here and I have a lot of experience with them.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  I wanted to try something new and exciting.  Rosemary Apple Butter?  Apple Chutney of some exotic variety? 

I’ve never made an apple butter.  The term “apple butter” has always kind of turned me off to it.  I don’t know why; it’s just one of those things. 

Chutney seems exciting, but it intimidates me.  Not because I don’t think I can make it, but because I don’t know what the heck I’d do with all those jars of chutney once I canned them.  Put them on the shelf to look pretty?  Eat them out of the jar with a spoon? 

So, as much as I really wanted to try something daring and new, I decided to stick with something familiar.  Last year I canned cinnamon apple slices for the first time.  They were delicious, but the experimental jar I made with chai spices was fabulous.  I actually ate the whole jar with a spoon.  Okay, I actually used a fork but the point is that once I started eating them I couldn’t stop.  So I present to you:

Apple sauce or apple rings?
Chai Spiced Apples

Chai Spiced Apple Rings
Made just over 7 pints.
(Based on a recipe I found at Myownlabels.com)

  • Vinegar-salt solution:
  •  2 Tbsp white vinegar
  •  2 Tbsp salt
  •  1 gallon cold water
  • 10 lbs. Apples  (I used 3 lbs. of Ida Reds from my 9 Bean Rows CSA share, 6 lbs. of Ida Reds from Maple Ridge Orchards and a pound of Jonathan apples from Maple Ridge .)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 7 candied ginger medallions
  • 1 one inch piece of vanilla bean
  • 42 cardamom seeds
  • 42 pepper corns
  • 14 cloves
  • 7 star anise
  • 7 cinnamon sticks
Automatic apple slicer thingy

Dylan slicing apples


Mix salt and vinegar in 1 gallon of cold water; stir until salt is dissolved.
Wash, peel, core and slice apples and submerge the slices in the vinegar brine to prevent discoloration.  I like to use my handy-dandy apple slicing machine which peels, cores and slices all at once.  (And no, that’s not an Ida Red on the slicer, it’s a Yellow Delicious we dehydrated.)

Mix sugar, water, candied ginger, vanilla bean and cinnamon in a large sauce pot. 
Bring syrup to boil and boil gently for five minutes.
Remove syrup from heat and add apples.  
Allow the apples to rest in the syrup for ten minutes. 
Return pan to heat, bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool thoroughly.

While the apples and syrup are cooling, prepare your jars, lids and boiling water bath (BWB): Wash jars and caps.  Place rack in canning pot and add jars.  When the apples are nearly cool, bring the BWB to a boil.  Turn down heat but keep jars in simmering water until ready to fill.

Once the apples and syrup have thoroughly cooled, remove apple slices and vanilla bean.  Cut vanilla open and scrape the seeds out.  Add the vanilla seeds to the syrup and return to a boil.

ready for fruit

Aromatics in the hot jar awaiting the addition of apples and syrup.


When the syrup is ready add one of the candied ginger medallions, a star anise, 6 peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 6 cardamom seeds to each prepared jar.
Pack the apple slices loosely in hot jars.
Fill the jars with boiling syrup leaving 1/2″ head space.
Wipe rims of jars, add lids and rings and process pint jars in BWB for 15 minutes.
Try not to open the jars for a few weeks to allow the spices to have time to really mingle in the jar.

The verdict:
If my goal was spiced apple rings, this recipe was an EPIC FAIL. 

This could be for two reasons (that I can think of; there are probably numerous other reasons that I haven’t even considered). 
The first reason is that I soaked the apples too long which caused them to soak up a lot of water and turn to mush when I cooked them.  I’m not sure that this is the reason because some of the apples kept their shape despite being soaked. 
The second (and most logical) reason some of the apples turned to mush is that they have been stored outside for three weeks.  Yes, it is cool outside now, but we’ve had many sunny, warm days.  Apples like to stay cool all the time, not just most of the time.  Some of the apples kept their shape beautifully.  While I can’t identify individual apples from the slices in the jars, I’m assuming that the CSA apples that I got Saturday morning are the apples that held their shape. 

Maybe I did make a chutney after all.

The jar on the right is a jar of spiced apple slices from last year. The jar on the left is the sauce? Syrup? Chutney? I made today.

HOWEVER, if my goal was a syrupy-sweet apple sauce, or an amazing topping, this recipe was a complete success.  The vanilla added a heavenly aroma and subtle flavor even when mingled with the other powerful spice flavors.  I think this will be a great addition to our Christmas brunch on pancakes and waffles or served with homemade vanilla ice cream.


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Why Have I Been So Busy Lately?? ~ Mercato Edition

Yesterday morning I got up and walked to the Farmers’ Market.  I do this every Saturday morning, most Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons.  I do this for lots of reasons.  The main reason I shop at the Market is that I like to know where my food is coming from.  I know which farmers use pesticides and which don’t or try not to.   

I also like to support the farmers, beekeepers and artisans of my community.  Shopping locally keeps money in the pockets of my neighbors and keeps it out of the pockets of multi-national corporations and agribusinesses like Tyson.  By buying local goods I’m using my dollars to vote for the little guy. 

Another reason I shop at the Farmers’ Market is that it is better for the environment.  Growing and transporting our food uses millions of gallons of oil every year.  According to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, our food system uses 20% of the fossil fuels we consume. 

When I shop at the Farmers’ Market I help protect my family from the tainted food that frequently plagues grocery shoppers around the country.  Spinach, lettucemeat and most recently, eggs, have been recalled due to contaminations by Salmonella or E. Coli bacteria.  The farmers that grow my food feed that same food to their families; they’re not going to do anything that will risk their loved ones.

Even though I love the Farmers’ Market, I don’t go there just to shop.  Don’t get me wrong, I bought a lot yesterday and I even remembered my wagon so I could get it all home but when I go to the Market each Saturday morning, I go to work.   All summer I have been working for Nic and Jen at 9 Bean Rows in exchange for my CSA share.  I love working at the Market.  I have met and formed great relationships with a lot of really cool people.  Most of them are farmers, but some are fishermen, beekeepers, vintners or soapmakers.  I support them and they take care of me.  Many of them I now consider my friends.

Silvertree Deli

The Silvertree Deli in The Mercato

In July, I picked up a part-time job.  Don’t ask me why, but I did.  I started working lunches in the Silvertree Deli.  The deli is a great place;  the architecture of both the deli and the entire Mercato is gorgeous, the sandwiches are delicious and everyone that works there is a lot of fun.  Despite all the wonderful things about the deli, I started having regrets the first day. 

“What have I done?” I wondered.  “How will I take my kids to the beach?  When will I make cheese?  Or jam?”  All these thoughts swirling in my head started keeping me up at night.  “I’ll quit in the morning.” I told myself day after day.  And then I’d get to work and I’d feel bad and not quit.  I lasted a whole month before I finally decided that my time was more important to me than my summer job. 

I’m still busy, but now I have more time for canning, cooking, knitting, sewing and the beach.


Filed under Miscellaneous

August Can Jam ~ Tomatoes Three Ways

Tomatoes.  There is something about a ripe tomato that simply screams, “Summer!”   Unfortunately, tomato season doesn’t last forever.  Unless, of course, you buy mealy, flavorless, South American tomatoes all winter but that is an entirely different post.  Today we’re talking about preserving the fresh, local bounty that is right outside our doors.  

I planted tomatoes this year, but my uncooperative plants have thus far yielded me only 4-5 tomatoes a day.  This is perfect to keep us in fresh tomatoes for lunch, dinner and small batches of salsa to snack on, but not enough for preserving.  Maybe I’ll have to try this method next year.  Enter, the Farmers’ Market.  Dylan and I walked down to the market this morning to pick up some tomatoes for The Jam.  Even though I knew I was going to buy large quantities of tomatoes, I still didn’t have the sense to bring the wagon with me.  I proceeded to buy a half bushel of tomatoes, a peck of apples, six ears of corn, two giant green peppers, five onions and . . . 

A cantaloupe. 

Fortunately I had Dylan to help me drag the stuff  back home.   We stopped for breaks many times. 

The tomatoes were the best score of my summer market season so far.  I paid $3 for a half bushel of tomatoes!!!  They were seconds, perfect for canning.  She made me promise to use them that day so that they wouldn’t spoil and many of them had blemishes, but none of them were bad and I can’t beat the savings; quarts of tomatoes were $4 or more. 

I promised I’d process the tomatoes today, so I did.  Here you go: 

Round 1: Salsa 

Homemade salsa

At a jar a week, I only need about 46 more.

  • 16 cups peeled tomatoes
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 cups chopped bell pepper
  • hot peppers, minced; I used a blend. 
    Hot peppers

    These chilies made a VERY mild salsa.

    Several of my own Bolivian rainbow chilies and a couple of mystery peppers from the Farmers’ Market.  I seeded the mystery peppers, but left the seeds in the little peppers 

  • 7 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T. cumin
  • scant 1/4 C. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon and/or lime juice

Prepare your jars and boiling water bath.
Chop the onions and bell peppers.  Squeeze most of the water and some of the seeds out of the tomatoes before chopping them.  I used a food processor to mince the garlic and peppers, but I chopped everything else by hand. 
Dump it all into a big pot and bring to a boil. 
Simmer until it reaches a consistency you like. 
Ladle salsa into hot, sterile jars; add lids and process thirty minutes. 

This recipe made ten pints plus a little bowl for us to eat right away. 

Round 2: Sauce 

Tomato-Basil Sauce

The sauce isn't really this yellow, it's actually a lovely orange.

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3/4 C. carrot, chopped
  • 1 C. celery leaves and all, chopped
  • 1/4 C. parsley, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 C. chopped fresh basil*
  • 7 lbs. peeled tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 T. honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. lemon juice per pint

Prepare your jars and boiling water bath.
In a large pot, saute onion, carrot, celery and parsley in a little water.
Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Increase heat to medium high; add garlic and saute for one minute.
Add tomatoes, honey and basil.  *The basil can be left out if you want a more neutral (read: not Italian) sauce.
Salt and pepper to taste.
If you are going to use this as a pasta sauce, it is fine in its chunky state, but I like to use mine for pasta AND pizza, so I puree mine for a smoother consistency.  If you have a stick blender, run it through the sauce to smooth it out.  If, like me, your stick blender is dead, dump the sauce in batches into your blender and puree until smooth.  Return the sauce to the pan and bring to a boil.
Ladle sauce and 2 tablespoons* lemon juice into hot, sterile pint jars; add lids and process thirty-five minutes. 

*If you use larger or smaller jars, adjust the amount of lemon juice you add to each jar; the acid is necessary for food safety during storage. 

This recipe made four pints. 

Round 3: Ketchup 

Or is it catsup?

One tiny jar.

Disclaimer:  I have never made ketchup before.  The other recipes are tried-and-true, but the ketchup is an experiment. 

Remember this book? 

Freezing and Canning Cookbook: Prized Recipes from the Farms of America

Cool, huh? Don't you just want to run out and make a gelatin mold?

It has several ketchup recipes in it, but we are canning tomatoes, so I modified the straight-up Tomato Ketchup recipe.  The most difficult thing was adjusting the seasonings; it’s hard to divide fractions of teaspoons.

  • 2 lbs. peeled tomatoes
  • 1/2 meduim onion, chopped
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 C.  vinegar
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1/4 tsp, cracked cinnamon stick
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt

When the ingredient listing on the ketchup label says, "spices" this is what they mean.

Prepare your jars and boiling water bath.
Put vinegar and spices into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and turn off heat.
Put tomatoes, onions and cayenne into saucepan. Use this to chop up the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Dust off your food mill.  Run the tomato mixture through the food mill and return to the pot.  Add sugar and simmer until volume is reduced by half.  It takes about an hour and a half.
Strain vinegar to remove spices.  Add salt to vinegar and add to tomato mixture.  Boil, uncovered, until thick.  Again, the cooking takes a long time; about another hour but I didn’t boil it on high because I didn’t want to burn it.
Pour into hot jars and process 15 minutes. 

This made one, 8 oz. jar.  I haven’t tried it yet, but if it is good, I’ll make some more. 

Oh, and the chickens LOVE canning season.


Filed under canning, food


Meet Fiona. 

Palomino Rabbit

Fiona enjoying some time in the yard.

Many of you will look at this post and think, “Aw, how cute!”  That is the natural instinct when one sees a bunny.  They are fluffy and sweet.  Generally, they are gentle and quiet.  If you are a gardener, you may be thinking, “What a pest!” or “Great fertilizer.”  But, as fellow blogger Annette of Sustainable Eats writes: Bunnies are Fluffy and So Much More

Some of you will read this post and decide not to come back.  That is because Fiona is the first step in my venture towards meat independence and another step towards more sustainable food.  I started by shopping at the Farmers’ Market.  I joined a CSA.  I got chickens and planted a garden.  I ordered, paid for and received half a hog from my friend Joan at Olds Farm and signed up for a raw goat milk share. (Mr. Hippie isn’t ready to let me get a goat.  Yet.)   I make yogurt, cheese and bread.  All these things help reduce my carbon footprint and my food miles.  They increase my self-sufficiency and make me feel better about where my food is coming from.

I have a friend who is a vegetarian because she doesn’t feel right eating meat if she can’t kill it herself.  She should feel that way.  We all should.  We come from a long line of hunter-gatherers.  We are designed to hunt and kill our own meat.  Somewhere down the line agriculture was developed.  This was a good thing.   It provided food security and allowed us to settle down and form commmunities.   Homo Sapiens  has been very succesful.  We are intelligent and learn fairly quickly how to do things as efficiently as possible. We learned to work together and trade with our neighbors for the things we didn’t have.  All these innovations have made life easier although I wouldn’t argue that it is simpler.  Most of us never kill an animal for food.  Some of us, mostly children, don’t realize that a hamburger was once a living, breathing entity.  There is such a disconnect between us and our food that we don’t have to think about the unpleasantry of actually killing the animal that provides sustenance.  We even have different names for slaughtered animals than we do for livestock.  Pigs are pork, cows are beef.  Even deer become venison. 

This post is not a rant about the ugliness of industrial agriculture or the wrongs of factory farms.  This is not a post to try and convince you that you should raise your own rabbits or chickens.  I know that not everyone can or will do that.   This post is about me making a conscious choice to know where my food comes from.  When three of our four chickens turned out to be roosters, I needed to make a decision.  I could find them foster homes or I could eat them.  Like my vegetarian friend that won’t eat meat because she can’t kill it, I knew that if I couldn’t eat those roos, I had no point eating chicken at all.  How can I justify walking into a grocery store to buy a plucked, cleaned chicken and eat it when I can’t eat my own?  I’ll admit that I didn’t personally slaughter those chickens.  I wasn’t ready yet but it was a first step which brought me closer to where I am now.

 Bunnies are fluffy and cute but throughout history they have been prized as a source of meat.  According to David Taylor in his Rabbit Handbook, “By medieval times, rabbits were much valued for their meat, skin and fur.  . . .  A fine buck rabbit fetched as high a price as a suckling pig.”  I buy rabbit meat from the Farmers’ Market.  I know where it came from and that it was treated well.  I also know that it is lean, high in protein and very “green”.  Rabbits are very efficient converters of plant material to meat so they put very little strain on our already stressed out food system.  But, rabbit meat is fairly expensive to buy.  It is often considered a gourmet or specialty meat so it demands a high market price.  I can raise my own rabbits for a relatively small investment. 

Fiona is a Palomino rabbit, a variety recommended for meat production.  Fiona will probably never be eaten but she is breeding stock for future rabbit meat.  Fiona is not old enough yet to sart breeding so this venture is on hold until then, but the foundation is in place.  Until then, I do have another source of fertilizer for my ever-expanding garden.  We went to the fair yesterday and picked out a young buck.  Nibbler is a “mutt” but has nice coloring, a good shape and will grow to a good size for a meat rabbit.  We’ll pick him up on Sunday, so you can meet him soon.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday blog hop.  Hop on over and check out what everyone is doing.


Filed under food, gardening, green living

Happy Birthday Gwen


Hope she made a good wish.

Gwen on her fourteenth birthday.


The arrival of my daughter, Gwendolyn, fourteen years ago today was a surprise; she was five weeks early.  She was ready for the world despite everyone else’s schedules and is the same way now; she wants to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it.

Life with a teenager is different.  I could spend hours telling you of our adventures through life but as you probably are already aware, everything a mother does embarrasses a teen; she wouldn’t approve.  So, instead of telling you all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful moments we’ve shared over the years I’ll share the birthday dinner.  It will still earn me rolled eyes but it’s been awhile since I’ve done a food post.

Gwen has been a vegetarian for over three years now.  There was a short stint in the middle when I could get her to eat locally raised and sustainably produced meats but she’s since reverted to her diet of cheese and bread.  Actually, she eats fish and eggs and dairy.  She’ll even eat a lot of vegetables, but when I start combining them into balanced vegetarian meals she turns up her nose. (Ratatouille anyone?)  Since both the boys in our house are devoted carnivores, it makes dinner interesting to say the least.  Generally what happens is that the boys get a protein with a vegetable and grain or potatoes on their plates and Gwen gets the same plate without the meat.  She doesn’t particularly enjoy soy-based meat replacements and I’m not sure I agree with them anyway given how unsustainable they really are.

But, it is her birthday.  Did I mention neither of the boys like fish?  So, in addition to cake I got to make not one, but two dinners today.
Let’s start with the common elements.  

Grilled corn and flatbread

Folded flatbread with an ear of corn grilled in its husk.


Everyone had an ear of grilled corn from Olds Farm and a grilled flatbread.  Leave your corn in its husk and soak it in water for an hour or two before you throw it on the grill.  I made grilled breads a lot last summer but since I’ve started using spelt or whole wheat flour, they’ve waned in popularity and nobody cheers when I cook them anymore.  I’ve been tweaking the recipe trying to find a balance of white and whole grain flour that everyone will eat; these were pretty good and nobody complained although I probably could have increased the white flour a little more.  The recipe is below.

Garden fresh Ceviche

Halibut Ceviche with veggies from our garden.


Gwen’s entrée was ceviche.  I’ve never made a ceviche before but I was very pleased with the results and will definitely be making it again.  Every time I grill fish Gwen asks, “Do we have anymore lemon?” so “cooking” the fish in the lemon seemed like a natural thing to do.

Grilled Dinner

I want my baby back, baby back.


The boys had baby back ribs.  We ordered a half a pig from Olds Farm this year.  It was processed last week and we picked it up on Wednesday.  It feels really good to have a freezer full of good, local meat but at the rate we’re eating it, I’m not sure it will last long.

Sneaky Cake with chocolate chip ice cream

Nobody will ever guess the secret ingredients.


I should have made homemade ice cream to go in Gwen’s ice cream cake but since I was already cooking two separate dinners and baking a cake in a 90 degree house, I cheated and bought some. 

Everything was a hit (even the sneaky cake) and Gwen had a great birthday.   Here are the recipes:
Grilled Flatbreads

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm whey (or water if you haven’t made cheese recently)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups white flour plus more for dusting

  1. Combine yeast with whey or water and sugar and let stand about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in oil, salt and flours to form a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl; add more flour as necessary.
  3. Knead the dough with your KitchenAid mixer until the motor dies or the dough is smooth and elastic, whichever comes first. (My mixer died at just about the same time the dough was ready so I guess I got lucky there.)
  4. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and drizzle the top with oil.  Cover with a damp towel or cloth napkin and let rise until double.
  5. Punch the dough down and roll it into a two-inch cylinder.  Cut the cylinder into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and keep covered with a damp towel.
  6. Preheat the grill to high.
  7. Roll each dough ball into a thin disc about 8″ in diameter.
  8. Drizzle each disc with oil and sprinkle with salt before placing onto the hot grill.  Flip when the breads bubble and the bottoms brown nicely and cook until the other side has browned.


Birthday Ceviche

About 2 lbs. Halibut from Alaskan Premium Seafoods cut into 1/2″ chunks
1/2 cup lime juice
two small onions pulled from the garden along with some of the greens finely chopped
a medium yellow and two small Roma tomatoes pulled from the garden and chopped
two small hot peppers pulled from the rainbow pepper plant minced
several lime basil leaves finely chopped
2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl.  Stir gently to blend and place in refrigerator.  Stir again every hour or so to ensure all parts of fish come into contact with the lime juice.  The fish is ready when it turns from translucent to opaque.

Scoop into bowls with a slotted spoon to remove most of the juice and serve.

There isn’t really a recipe for my ribs.  I had the oven on for the cake so I rubbed the ribs on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic and dumped them in a glass baking dish.  I poured half a beer in the pan, covered it with foil and threw it in the oven while I prepared and baked the cake.  When the cake was done I left the ribs in while the oven cooled and then finished them on the grill with the corn and the flatbreads.  My sauce is also very complex:

  1. Dump the drippings and beer from the ribs into a sauce pan.
  2. Add a liberal amount of brown sugar and a big squirt of ketchup.
  3. Boil until desired consistency is reached.


Birthday Ice Cream Cake

1 quart ice cream
1 1/2 cups purple puree*
1 stick butter
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1 C. sugar
2 C. whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Chocolate frosting *

* Purple Puree is something the Sneaky Chef does, but mine is a little different.  Last summer, in an effort to use all the kale I was getting from my CSA, I decided to use purple kale to make a puree to add to my cakes.  It’s a little coarser than I think a spinach puree would be, but I haven’t had any complaints.  
In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup water to boiling.  Chop a large bunch of purple kale (3-4 cups chopped) and add it to the boiling water.  When the kale is thoroughly cooked, add it and the water to your blender or food processor with two cups of blueberries and a teaspoon of lemon juice.  Puree the mixture on high-speed until it reaches a smooth consistency.  This will make over 2 cups of puree; you can freeze any extra.

Before mixing your cake, remove your ice cream from the freezer to soften (unless you just made your own and it is already soft) and line a 9 inch cake pan with plastic wrap.  Scoop ice cream into the lined pan and smooth it down so that it takes the shape of the pan.  Place the pan in the freezer to allow the ice cream to harden.

Preheat oven to 340 degrees.

  1. Melt a stick of butter with the chocolate chips in a large, microwaveable bowl.  I used milk chocolate chips because I had them on hand,  but I would advise semi-sweet for a more chocolatey cake.  Stir the chips and butter until blended.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups purple puree, vanilla, sugar and eggs and mix well.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Mix until blended.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients into the larger bowland mix until combined.
  5. Grease two 9″ cake pans.
  6. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Allow cakes to fully cool before assembling the ice cream tower. 
  8. Invert one cooled layer cake on a large plate.
  9. Remove plastic wrap from ice cream and stack onto cake.
  10. Top ice cream with second cake layer.
  11. Frost with Chocolate frosting *
  12. Place cake in freezer until ready to serve.

Chocolate Frosting

1 stick room temperature butter
powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a ratio of about 4:1
splash of vanilla

  1. Dump softened butter into medium-sized bowl.
  2. Add 1/4 C. powdered sugar and a T. of cocoa powder.  Stir until mixed.
  3. Add a splash of vanilla and stir again.
  4. Continue adding cocoa  and sugar until the frosting reaches a workable consistency. 

This post has been added to the Family Food Fridays bloghop.  Check it out for a selection of delicious recipes!


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