Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ewe plant

2010 is right around the corner, and though I'm not really one to make a bunch of Resolutions, I do try each year to come up with a few goals for the New Year that help keep me focused on where I want to be heading.

Along these lines, in the coming year I hope to greatly expand our backyard vegetable gardens. I'll be trying to grow some things I haven't planted before (such as Delicata squash, melons, and curly kale) - and I'll also be planting greater quantities of tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, Brussels sprouts, and other favorites. This means more raised beds will need to be built - lots of work to be done outside!

I also hope to finally pull everything together such that I can add chickens to our little world in 2010 - again, lots of work to be done first, building them a coop and a run so we can keep them safely in our yard and out of the neighbors' yards! I love reading about other local folks' chicken adventures - helps me remember that this is definitely "doable" in my neck of the woods!!

Anyway, so given my 2010 plans, my gardening obsession, and my love of sheep (I don't have real sheep of my own (yet!!) but I do have a collection of sheep decorating my fireplace mantel...) I thought one of my Christmas gifts from my husband was just perfect. He took a "found" planter, cleaned it up and patched a hole in the bottom, and then painted it for me.

"Ewe plant" - makes me smile every time I look at it. And it really does just say it all - doesn't it?

Happy New Year, all!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry, merry, merry!

Just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.

May your days be filled with -



And FUN!!

(yes, that's Mo-pug vs. the Santa hat - or, what happens when you try to get both a pug and a child to pose for a Christmas photo on a beautiful November day... (grin))

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

quick and easy butter cookies

I like cookie recipes that don't make TOO many cookies, as I for one can leave no cookie uneaten. If it's here in the house, it's gone before I know it!! So a recipe that makes just about 2 dozen cookies works for me - plenty for everyone in the family to enjoy, but not so many that we enjoy them to excess.

This butter cookie recipe makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen happy little cookies - and it's nice and simple. Not too many ingredients - and all things I usually have on hand.

Oh - before I share the recipe, I'll share a picture of Mo-pug, who was happy this morning to discover that I am a messy baker. She stood in the kitchen trying to catch flour as it floated to the floor. Note the white sprinkles on the normally all-black puggy chin. She cracks me up!!

On to the recipe (courtesy of The New York Times Cookbook)!

Butter Cookies

1/4 pound butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated orange rind, or 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup flour
Nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly. Add the egg, salt, vanilla and fruit rind, and mix. Add the flour and mix well.
3. Shape the dough into small balls and flatten with the hand, or chill the dough and put through a cookie press. Garnish with nuts if desired.
4. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake until the edges are light brown, or about 12 minutes.
5. ENJOY!!

super simple centerpiece

We're hosting family for Christmas Eve dinner at our house tomorrow, and I wanted to decorate the table "holiday-style." The bowl is a Freecycle find - the pine branches were cut from our Christmas tree so we could fit it properly into the stand - and the pinecones are from our yard. The cardinal is one of several I have around the house. My great-grandmother was one of my favorite people ever, and she loved cardinals (like seriously, obsessively loved them!!). My cardinal collection reminds me of spending time with her, watching her fill her suet feeders and waiting for the cardinals to come and eat!

A super simple centerpiece, and a happy holiday creation - without spending a dime. Works for me (grin)!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

dark days challenge - week 5

I missed posting my Week 4 Dark Days meal - oops!! Something about December - it flies right by sometimes!

For Week 5's Dark Days meal, we decided last night (once we were done shoveling snow!) to "think warm" and barbecue! We pulled some chicken legs (Hayward Farm) out of the freezer and put them on the grill. Then we quartered some Meadow's Mirth white onions, put them on skewers, and out onto the grill they went as well. I love grilled onions. Of course I love onions just about any way they can be cooked - so I'm easy on that count (grin). We had the oven on for a banana bread anyway (just about nothing local in that baking project!!) - so we threw in a couple of the sweet potatoes we got from Ramsbotham's Farm.

It was a simple meal - chicken, onions, and baked sweet potatoes - but a super tasty one!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

when snowed in, make chicken stock!

We seem to be quite snowed in this morning. Rumor has it we're only supposed to get 1-2" where we live - but we've got at least 5" out there already, and it's still coming down hard!

So, since we're here, we decided to use some of the chicken bones from recent roast chicken dinners to make chicken stock. The chickens came from Riverview Farm (Madbury, NH), and Hayward Farm (Gilmanton Iron Works, NH). We've been saving the bones in the freezer until we had enough - and until we knew we were going to be home for a few hours. And since we had plenty of carrots, onions, garlic, dill, and oregano from the farmers' markets to add to the "mix," we have a nice mostly-local (except for the bay leaf and salt) stock boiling away!

Soup for lunch later... can't wait!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

one day - two wonderful winter markets

Today there were two winter farmers' markets in our area - one in Newmarket, and one in Rollinsford. We went to both - and they were wonderful (and very busy) once again!

In Newmarket, we bought garlic, eggs, and a handful of packets of High Mowing Organic Seeds (delicata squash, cucumbers, melons, snap peas, and pattypan squash). It's great fun to be thinking about next year's garden as more snow heads our way this weekend!!

Then in Rollinsford, we stocked up on storage onions, potatoes, broccoli, and more garlic- and we also got some kielbasa. I was hoping to find cauliflower and Brussels sprouts too - but they were sold out by the time we arrived. Next time!

The next markets in this area aren't until January 9 in Exeter, and January 16 in Rye and Newmarket - and I'm looking forward to them already!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

fun with kill a watt

This week I was able to borrow a Kill A Watt meter from our local library. It's pretty nifty - you plug it in, and then plug different electrical items into it (lights, appliances, computers, etc.). It tells you how much electricity each item is using when it's on, and also when it's plugged in but just sitting there unused (so you can measure the "phantom load" on your system).

My engineer husband has been having tons of fun figuring out which appliances we should definitely be unplugging when they're not in use (like our copier/printer/fax, which so far (even though it puts itself in "sleep" mode) has about double the phantom load of anything else we've measured in the house!) - and which we apparently need not unplug (like our lamps that are on wall switches, which have zero phantom load as long as the wall switches are off).

Right now, our refrigerator is plugged into the meter. We're leaving it there for 24 hours so we can get a good picture of how much electricity it is using, and whether a new refrigerator is in order or if the one we have is still running "typically" in terms of energy usage.

I'm sure our electric bill will be a little higher than usual this month, on account of the handful of Christmas lights we have up outside - but I'm hoping the "phantom load" exercise will help us bring the bill down as we head into 2010.

I've read that many libraries are starting to have the meters available for borrowing - might be worth looking into if haven't tried one yet, and you're curious about energy usage at your house too!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

winter's arrival

It felt like Spring last week - and now overnight it seems Winter has arrived in New Hampshire!! These are some pictures of our front yard, as we found it when we woke up this morning. Hope your day is pretty too!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

another awesome winter market!

Another wonderful winter market in Rollinsford today!! We ran through the market right after it opened at 10:00 today, as we're busy this afternoon. Last time we went later in the day, to avoid the crowds a bit - and when we got there closer to 1:00 there was plenty of parking and still plenty of fabulous local food!!

Today we picked up the kale, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, onions, and potatoes pictured above - as well as some ground pork, pork tenderloins and kielbasa. Our items came from Ramsbotham's Farm, New Roots, Meadow's Mirth, Heron Pond, Hollister's Family Farm... I think that's everyone!

There's another Seacoast Eat Local winter market next Saturday - this time in Exeter, NH. I'm looking forward to it - and I'm hoping to have a little more time next week to check out the tables of some of the farms and vendors who we haven't purchased from yet!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

dark days challenge - week 3

For tonight's dinner (and this week's Dark Day Challenge meal), we made meatballs in red sauce with french-fried potatoes on the side. I didn't take a photo, as after after struggling to get the macaroni and cheese looking presentable earlier this week, I didn't think I'd have much luck with meatballs in sauce (grin)!!

We make our meatballs with 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground pork - plus an egg, chopped onion and garlic, a little cumin, and a touch of salt. We cook them in a "Cuban style" tomato sauce (rather than Italian). To make the sauce, we start with a sofrito of chopped tomato, garlic, and onion heated in a little oil - then we add plain tomato sauce, dry white wine, a touch of salt, and the meatballs, and cook together until the meat is done.

When we make meatballs, we always make enough to have leftovers, as they taste fabulous the next day in a toasted sandwich, or (my favorite way) reheated, cut into small pieces, and scooped up with corn tortilla chips.

Local ingredients for this week's Challenge meal are the pork (Jenness Farm - not only do they have goat products, but they also sell pork at their farm store!), ground beef (Pinewoods Yankee), egg (Stonewall Farm), tomato (from a small farm in Lee, frozen by us for winter use), tomato sauce (made this summer from some of our CSA tomatoes, and frozen), garlic (Tuckaway Farm), and onions and potatoes (both from Meadow's Mirth). Non-local ingredients are the salt, cumin, oil, and dry wine.

bringing home the tree

It was a beautiful day to go pick out a tree today - so we headed off to Warren Farm this morning! We went to the "back field" where they have Concolor Fir and Blue Spruce (and lots of pretty views!).

Saws are available at the farm - but make sure you wear your boots!

There were lots of trees from which to choose!

And some trees had already been chosen - my son enjoyed counting rings to see how old some of the trees were when they were cut down!

We chose a 7' tall Concolor Fir. We have cut a Concolor each of the last 10 years - they're pretty trees with long, soft, blue needles. And the trees smell like oranges, which I think is wonderful - Christmas wouldn't feel the same in our house without one!!

the sky has eyes?

We went out to Newington yesterday, and this is what (who?) we saw watching us drive home. I think the sky really does have eyes!!
EDIT - I realized I should write what I see here, as could be that everyone who looks at the photo sees something different. Clouds are like that!! I see a very wide head, with 2 eyes in the center, and a wide mouth - like a creature of some sort looking back at me. What do you see??

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the best mac and cheese I've ever made

Although I couldn't get a picture that was very pretty, this was by far the best tasting homemade mac and cheese casserole I've ever made. The roasted butternut combined with the cheddar sauce is just fabulous!!

I saw the recipe in Parents magazine, but modified it to use whole (not reduced fat) milk and regular (not low-fat) cheddar. And we thought the butternut needed a little more time than they said, so we added 5 minutes to their recommended 20... other than that, here's the recipe - (mostly) "as was."

Butternut Squash Casserole

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 cups)
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb whole wheat elbows
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 3/4 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss squash with oil and salt on a foil-lined tray. Bake for 25 minutes or until tender; set aside.
2. Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than package directions call for; drain and place in bowl with squash. Meanwhile, melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 2 minutes.
3. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 1/2 cups cheese; stir until melted. Stir cheese sauce into pasta and squash.
4. Spoon into 6 greased individual ramekins. Sprinkle on remaining cheese. Bake 10 minutes. Serves 6.

The individual portions in the little ramekins were adorable - and my son was all excited to have his very own little white dish! We served the remaining Brussels sprouts from our garden that we harvested today, steamed, on the side - and it was a great meal. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think!

Monday, November 30, 2009

o christmas tree!

I've come across several articles about the merits of "real vs. fake" Christmas trees recently. Thought I'd share some of the info for those of you who celebrate Christmas and are wondering which is better for the world - a live tree, or a boxed one...

Number of real Christmas trees sold in the US in 2008 - 28.2 million
Number of artificial trees imported into the US in 2008 (mostly from China) - 8.9 million

Pounds of plastic (mostly PVC) contained in a typical artificial tree - 7.3

Number of years a person must reuse an artificial tree before it has a lower carbon footprint than a real tree (according to one study) - 20
Number of years an artificial tree is typically reused before being thrown into the landfill - 6 to 9

Most real Christmas trees come from farms, not forests. They are a crop that is designed to be harvested in "rounds" (each year as trees are cut, more are planted), and typically have little to no pesticides sprayed on them over their growing years.

And my favorite tidbit from my reading - "Artificial trees come in a cardboard box. Does that save a tree?" That one made me laugh!

We get a "cut your own" Christmas tree each year from Warren Farm in Barrington. Going out in the fields to choose a tree is one of my favorite Christmas activities - especially when there's snow on the ground and the fields are looking wintery and beautiful! When Christmas is over, we always lay the tree out in the woods in back of our house, and it becomes a hideout for critters like squirrels and birds. Many bigger towns offer Christmas tree pick-up, and turn the trees into compost or woodchips. All good!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

hello, goats!

We stopped by the Jenness Farm holiday open house today. It was fun to see the goats, and I bought a jar of goat milk hand cream to use this winter (even though it was beautiful and almost warm outside today, rumor has it there will indeed be winter again this year... (grin)). In addition to all the goat milk products, they had some beautiful locally-made knit and sewn items in their gift shop - I think I'll need to go back and do some serious Christmas shopping! The open house is running through December 5th - see their website for more details.

dark days challenge - week 2

Our local eating efforts this week have focused around Thanksgiving - and around the locally raised White Holland "heritage" turkey that graced us with its presence on our table this year, and continues to provide us with plenty of yummy leftovers.

In addition to our almost-all-local Thanksgiving meal (save for the flour, spices, oil, and condensed milk), over the last several days we have enjoyed leftover turkey in several mostly-local variations, a few of which I'll share here -

We made turkey nachos, using (non-local) store-bought organic corn chips, Cabot cheese, Meadow's Mirth black beans, Warren Farm corn frozen from this summer, and leftover turkey -

Turkey fried rice, using (non-local) rice, organic eggs from Stonewall Farm (purchased at the Rye winter market), scallions frozen from our summer CSA, (non-local) oil, and leftover turkey (see here for a post on how we make chicken fried rice - for this meal, we just substituted cooked, shredded turkey for the chicken) -

Turkey sandwiches using homemade bread (non-local ingredients), Cabot cheese, and (you guessed it!) leftover turkey... the list goes on (and a yummy list it is, too!).

Now we're almost out of meat, but we have the turkey bones frozen so we can use them to make stock after we pick up carrots at the December 5th winter farmers' market in Rollinsford that's coming up this weekend - and then I think we will have officially made good use of this fine bird.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope it was a wonderful one, filled with family, good food, and fun!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

making pumpkin puree

Our kitchen is going to be busy this week, as we start getting ready for Thanksgiving. On the "to make" list for the next couple days are cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Today we're making pumpkin puree for the pie.

To make your own pumpkin puree (instead of using store-bought canned pumpkin), first wash the outside of the pumpkin, and remove the stem.

Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the strings and seeds (save the seeds for roasting!).

Place the 2 halves cut side down on a oiled pan that has a rim. Add 1/2 inch of water to the pan, and bake for about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and pour off the water. Turn the pumpkin halves cut side up, and place back in the oven until the pumpkin is very soft and can be pierced easily with a fork.

Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it easily. Scoop out the flesh, and puree in a blender or food processor until the pumpkin is very smooth.

If you'd like the puree to be thicker, you can strain it using a cheesecloth (or similar), or you can spread the puree on a cookie sheet and bake until it thickens (be careful not to overcook if you use this method).

From what I've read, you can store the puree for about a week in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to a year. In our house, it doesn't last that long (grin)!!

fall colors

Last week I took this picture of the sunset off our back deck - the sky was glowing with amazing pinks and blues (I wish the photo did the colors more justice - it was truly an amazing sight in person!!).

I hadn't had a chance to share the photo yet, but when I read the Colors of November post over at Life Looms Large, I thought this would be fun to add to the MckLinky that Sue has set up for folks from around the world to share their own pictures of colors in nature. Thanks Sue, for the fun post - I'm looking forward to seeing what photos people share!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

dark days challenge - week 1

I read about the Dark Days Challenge hosted by the Urban Hennery blog, and decided it sounded like fun. I'll be highlighting one local meal each week over the "dark" winter months - and look forward to reading about the meals other participants prepare! Check out Urban Hennery for more info, and to read about the local eating adventures of lots of folks!

Today, in honor of the fabulous winter farmers' markets we went to yesterday, we had a stir-fry of broccoli, leeks, and garlic for dinner. I bought the broccoli yesterday from Heron Pond Farm, and I had bought the leeks and garlic at the Portsmouth market before the season ended. I think I have enough garlic stored right now to last until next summer... love garlic - can't be without it!! Leeks on the other hand, I need to pick up more of at the next market. They're on the list!

To go with the stir-fry, we had baked sweet potatoes from Ramsbotham's farm. Yum! No photos this week as my camera battery was charging - but next week I'll definitely include pictures...

Non-local ingredients for this meal were the oil and dark soy sauce - and everything else was straight from the farm!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

wonderful winter market day!

What a beautiful November day in New Hampshire - it's sunny - there's blue sky - just perfect for being out-and-about at the winter farmers' markets!

We started our day at the Newmarket market at the Stone Church, as it's closer to our house than Rollinsford, and we knew Tuckaway Farm would be there (I love their veggies!). In Newmarket, we bought potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, onions, and bok choy.

Then we headed up to Rollinsford. The Wentworth greenhouse is an awesome place for the market - there were tons of people shopping, but it didn't feel overcrowded or loud - it was just a "happy, bustling busy little place," as we heard one person say. In Rollinsford, we picked up ground pork, broccoli, rutabaga, and more potatoes and onions.

Not only are we set for Thanksgiving now, but we should have plenty of local food to last til the next market (in Rollinsford, December 5th)!

Speaking of the farmers' markets, I realized last night as I was making my shopping list for today that I think our Thanksgiving is just about all locally-sourced this year. Our turkey, squash, turnips, potatoes, onions, and garlic are all from local New Hampshire farms. The pumpkin and eggs for the pumpkin pie are from local farms too. The cranberries for the cranberry sauce are from Massachusetts. And our butter is from Cabot (a cooperative that includes farms from New England and upstate New York). I think the only non-local items we'll be using are the condensed milk for the pie, flour, salt/pepper/spices, and oil. Pretty nifty - the opportunity to access local foods even in the "dark" months is definitely something I'm thankful for this year!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

the happiest little bowl of brussels sprouts

We tried growing our own Brussels sprouts for the first time this year. We bought nice little seedlings from a farm in Lee back in the Spring. But as the summer went on, our nice, healthy little starter-plants became sad - they were attacked by cabbage worms, flooded with rain, and just generally had a rough time making it out in the garden. As you can see, their leaves are decimated - and they're not particularly large plants.

Early this Fall, we thought about pulling them out and trying again next year, but then we decided to just leave them alone and see what happened.

And what happened was... actual Brussels sprouts started to grow! What had been tiny little pea-sized sprouts got larger and larger, and finally today they were ready to harvest!

Our first ever bowl of homegrown Brussels sprouts - a very, very happy thing!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

rye farmers' market trip

We decided to take a drive out to the Rye winter farmers' market in the rain this morning - it was a great little market, and I was excited to see not only broccoli, turnips, and Brussels sprouts, but also nice big sweet potatoes grown right in Madbury, NH. This is the first time we've come across New Hampshire-grown sweet potatoes, and I'm looking forward to trying them!

We also checked on the status of our Thanksgiving turkey, since the farmer who raised him was at the market today too. Our turkey is also coming from Madbury this year - and, as it turns out, is on his way to "the end" this very day (or as the farmer's mother said, "oh yep, he should be quite literally losing his head right now..." - gotta love a sense of humor!). Previous years we've bought our turkey from a farm in Deerfield, NH, but they're doing less farming (and no meat) this year - so we have a new turkey farm. Hard to believe Thanksgiving is really next week - where did 2009 go??

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

homemade hot chocolate mix

Since I can't drink coffee at night without risking being up til the morning (I don't drink decaf), I sometimes like hot chocolate after dinner on a cold evening (and despite some nice warm days, the evenings here in New Hampshire are definitely getting chilly!!).

Thought I'd share the recipe we used to make our own hot chocolate mix this week. After making our own, I can see now why so many people give pretty jars of homemade mix for Christmas presents - it's quick and simple to make, and (my opinion) it tastes much better than store-bought!

We found the basic recipe on, and modified a little (we omitted the cayenne pepper and the corn starch). It makes 5 1/2 cups dry hot chocolate mix -

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
Hot water (or warm milk)

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly.
2. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water.
3. Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water (or warm milk).
4. Stir to combine.
5. Seal the rest of the mix in an airtight container - keeps indefinitely in the pantry.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

last portsmouth market is today!

The Portsmouth farmers' market ends today - seems Winter really is just around the corner! We finally watched Food, Inc. last night (rented it in town) and after that reminder of what the industrial food system is all about, I'm definitely looking forward to going to the market and stocking up on enough fresh, local food to hopefully last me to the first of the winter markets!

Food, Inc. is definitely worth seeing if you haven't yet - I, for one, can't get the images of the sad, sick cows in the feedlots and at the slaughter houses out of my head. I'm so happy there are so many folks here in New Hampshire who offer local, humane-raised meats. Thank you farmers!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

food rules

I was reading the New York Times magazine online again today, and came across Food Rules: Your Dietary Dos and Don'ts. Michael Pollan picked 20 food rules from more than 2,500 that were submitted by readers from all over the world. Some made me laugh ("Don't eat egg salad from a vending machine.") and some echoed my own beliefs ("Never eat something that is pretending to be something else..."). It's a fun read if you have a minute to check it out!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

it's time to plant the garlic!

Here in New England, there are from what I understand 2 approaches when it comes to planting garlic. The first is to plant it in late Fall, once it's cooled down enough outside that the garlic won't start to sprout early (you want it to wait until Spring). The other is to hold off planting until Spring, and put the garlic in as soon as the ground is workable.

Last year, we planted in October, and as soon as the ground thawed in Spring, we had green shoots of garlic peeking out of the soil. So, since it worked out well, we're planting in October again this year.

To plant garlic, we start with bulbs from a couple different local farms (we had intended to save some of the garlic bulbs we harvested from our own garden for planting, but ended up using them all for cooking. Next year we'll remember to save our own seed stock (I hope!!)).

We split the bulbs into their individual cloves.

Then we take each clove and plant it "pointy side up" so that the tip is just covered with soil (don't plant too deep).

We plant additional cloves every 5 inches. I'm married to an engineer, who does no planting without his trusty tape measure... :-)

We use craft sticks to label our rows, as someone once gave me a box of 1,000 that they didn't need - plenty for many years of labelling!

Once we've planted and labeled, we take Fall leaves (we have lots of those around here!) and cover the rows, as I've read that this helps fertilize the garden bed since the leaves decompose over Winter. Come Spring, we remove whatever hasn't decomposed, and the soil underneath has always looked nice and rich and ready for planting!

That's all there is to it - a couple minutes spent outside, and you get a nice harvest of yummy garlic come the following summer. Growing garlic is definitely lots of fun - not too much work - and given that none of our other below-ground crops (carrots, beets, radishes etc.) worked out too well this year, I'm guessing if garlic will grow at our house, it will grow at your house too!!

food inc. and botany of desire

Did you watch the Botany of Desire documentary on PBS last night? If not, they'll be repeating it several times over the next couple weeks - which is a good thing, as I live with 2 big-time Yankees fans, and so I only watched the first part of the film (apples) before we switched over to the World Series (to watch the Yankees in what turned out not to be one of their better games...).

Also worth noting - Food, Inc. is being released on video this coming Tuesday (November 3). I had thought about pre-ordering it on Amazon, but decided instead to wait and see if our local video rental store is going to have it available. I still haven't seen the movie, and am looking forward to doing so hopefully next week!

exeter market's last day - and the winter markets are coming!

Today is the last day for the Exeter farmers' market. We'll be stopping by to pick up potatoes (my latest obsession is mashed potatoes - I seem to need them as a side dish to most any meal the last couple weeks!!), onions, and hopefully some turnips or cauliflower.

Even though Exeter is ending, the Portsmouth market is still on through November 7. And then the Seacoast winter markets start up pretty quickly after that (November 21 is the first in Rollinsford).

In this past Saturday's pouring rain we happened to be driving by Northwood's "off season" market location on Route 4, so we stopped in - it was definitely worth the stop, as we got a dozen of the best eggs we've had all year, and some nice tomatoes. The next Northwood market is November 7 - and then there will be another on November 21. The market is held at the Masonic Lodge, next to the municipal lot at the traffic light where Routes 4, 202/9, and 43 come together.

Lots of great opportunities to buy fresh, local produce and other foods this Fall and Winter!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

a garden surprise

We spent lots of time outside yesterday in the beautiful sunshine, raking leaves in the yard, sweeping leaves off the deck (lots of leaves all over the place!!), and getting two of the garden beds ready for winter and one ready for garlic (more about that when we plant toward the end of this week!). As we were pulling old squash plants up and moving leaves off of one of the beds, we came across this fine looking baby Swiss chard - an awesome little garden surprise, some of which will definitely be finding its way into the kitchen today!

Speaking of gardening, I've decided to use leftover seeds from this summer to try growing some lettuce indoors this Fall - I'll be planting it this week, and we'll see what happens. I'm hoping I can grow at least some baby lettuce - and I think I'm going to try chard too - as well as basil, chives, and parsley while I'm at it. I'm not sure what will grow well inside and what won't - though from what I've seen online, folks manage to grow all sorts of things indoors without benefit of a greenhouse (now a greenhouse would be LOTS of fun!!) - can't wait to see what kind of luck I have and will keep you posted!

in search of the perfect veggie burger

My son is a vegetarian. He used to love meat - meatballs, roast chicken, pork tenderloin - all favorites But then one day when he was 2 (he's 6 now) we were having roast chicken, and he looked down at his plate and the conversation went like this -

Rb - "Mom, where does chicken come from?"
Me - "It comes from the farm."
Rb - "No - where does it REALLY come from?"
Me - "Well, it comes from chickens."
Rb - "WHAT?? Chicken is CHICKENS!!??"

With that he pushed his plate away and that was it - a couple follow up questions about beef and pork, and he's never touched meat again. Beef being cows and pork being pigs was one thing - but the clincher was the chickens. You see, Rb loves chickens - like really, truly loves them. If we go to a farm and there are other kids there, we usually see them clustered around the pigs or the goats or the cows... but my son can always be found with the chickens. There used to be a farm in Epsom that sold milk, chicken, pork, veggies, etc. The first time we went there to pick up some meat, they gave us a tour of the farm. They wanted to show us the dairy cows - but Rb stepped one foot into the big old barn where the chickens were roosting (it was after dark when we arrived) and that was it - he was thrilled - stood there among his chicken friends smiling and chatting quietly with them, while we grown-ups talked with each other. One of the farmers kept asking him "don't you want to see the baby cows?" but there was no convincing him that the cows could possibly be as entertaining as the birds. Finally, it was time to go and the farmer said "well that's a first - I've never seen a child skip the cows!" Rb still talks about that barn full of birds - I think he'll remember it always!

Anyway, so long story slightly longer, we've been buying Gardenburgers for Rb, since making him beef burgers is out of the question - but I'd much rather make him something homemade. I've looked online and there are zillions and zillions of veggie burger recipes - but it's awfully hard to decide which ones sound good and which ones might come out well. So if you've tried making your own veggie burgers, and you have a recipe or a technique you'd recommend or like to share, I'd love to know!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

ill nature

I just finished reading Ill Nature, by Joy Williams. It's a collection of essays and is subtitled "Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals." I got it at a library book sale, thinking that any book that contains an essay called "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp" just had to be a good one. Sure enough, I loved it. If you come across the book, and you're a person who thinks and wonders about things like managed wildlife, hunting lotteries, and eco-tourism - and if you're the sort of person who believes that people should not go about their lives without thought to how their choices impact other living things - it's definitely a good read!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

happy cows make more milk

I was reading today that researchers at Newcastle University in England have shown that happy cows produce as much as 68 more gallons of milk each year than cows who aren't socialized to humans and treated with kindness. I like that - always nice when research "proves" good things like this!

We don't yet buy our milk "straight from the farm," as we do with our meat and eggs. I know there are many, many benefits to non-pasteurized milk - but for some reason, I have something of a mental block on this one. I for too long have heard that pasteurized milk is "safe" and I haven't yet convinced myself to move past this. We're all works in process, right?

So we don't buy farm-fresh local milk, but we do buy organic Stonyfield Farm milk. Stonyfield is more local than some alternatives, but then not completely local as their milk is processed and packaged here in New Hampshire but actually comes from the Eastern US (not just New England). Again, for us it's a compromise. One of the ways we came to the decision to use this brand was by using the organic milk ratings put out by the Cornucopia Institute. They give Stonyfield a rating of "three cows out of five" - some of the other organic milks that I've seen sold at area stores (Horizon, Organic Cow, etc.) received "zero cows" - making me happy we've stayed away from those!

What about you - do you get your milk from local farms? Was it an easy decision for you, or did you struggle with the idea at first? I'd love to know!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

when it snows in october

When it snows in October, napping seems a good idea. For Mo-pug, the day called for two naps - one with her favorite person - and one with her favorite pillow...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

portsmouth farmers' market trip

Another beautiful Saturday morning - another trip to the Portsmouth farmers' market! We brought home delicata squash, Brussels sprouts, Northern Spy apples, a rutabaga, and a nice big bunch of kale. We also got some kabocha "sunshine" squash (those are the ones in the photo that look like flat versions of pumpkins). This is the first year we've tried kabocha - and it's definitely an instant favorite. It's really awesome just peeled and de-seeded, cut up in big chunks, and roasted in the oven after being tossed with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. That'll be part of dinner tonight!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

last csa of the year - and bok choy soup

Today was our last CSA pick up for this year. The share includes potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, leeks, butternut squash, salad turnips, carrots, kale, and a pie pumpkin. My son was particularly excited about the pie pumpkin - he loves pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins, and then today we came across a recipe for a pumpkin penne pasta dish that he's eager to try. Now we'll have plenty more pumpkin for the new recipe (which I'll of course share if it comes out well!). It's been a great year for CSA - I'm sorry to see it end, but I'm already looking forward to next year!

Today for dinner, we're going to use the remainder of the bok choy that we picked up at the Portsmouth market this weekend, potatoes, leeks, carrot, and garlic from today's share, plus some of the chicken stock that we made yesterday, to make Bok Choy Soup. The recipe is from Green Earth Institute. We made it last Fall too - it's perfect for a chilly Fall day!

Bok Choy Soup

1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup minced leek or onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 baby bok choy, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons dried chervil (optional)
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 ounces dry vermicelli
Salt and pepper

1. Place butter and 1/4 cup water in soup pot; add leeks and garlic and cook slowly until beginning to brown.
2. Add bok choy, chicken broth and 2 cups water; bring to boil.
3. Add potatoes, optional chervil, marjoram, and carrot.
4. Simmer 25 minutes.
5. Add vermicelli; cook 10 minutes.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve, and enjoy! Makes 8 servings.

squash, squash everywhere!

A hard freeze is predicted for the area of New Hampshire where we live, some farms in our region have already seen freezes that have put an end to the more sensitive of their outdoor crops, and our last CSA pick up for the year is today. Winter really is on its way!

There are lots of winter farmers' markets planned for the upcoming months (see Seacoast Eat Local, Living the Local Life, and What Did She Do Today for dates and details). This many winter markets will definitely make continued local eating more "doable" than it has been in previous years (when there were holiday markets, but not much after December). But we're still making sure we have favorites on hand - tomatoes, corn, peppers, shredded zucchini, and scallions in the freezer, and winter squash in wire bins that we got from Freecycle.

One of my son's favorite homeschooling projects so far this Fall was weighing all the squash (one-by-one) that we'd brought home, and making a chart of the weights. Learning is everywhere with homeschooling - and he loves using the kitchen scale!

The acorn and delicata squash won't store for as long as the butternut and spaghetti squash, but we're stocking up on as much as we'll be able to enjoy before it goes bad. Winter squash needs to be kept in a cool-not-cold location to hold the best - since we don't have a root cellar, we'll be keeping ours in a far corner of the upstairs bedroom, as when we use the wood stove to heat, one side of the upstairs is the last to get warm. I read somewhere that if you crate your squash in containers that allow air circulation through the sides, and then place a piece of plywood on top, you have a handy nightstand. It made me smile to know I'm not the only person with squash in the bedroom!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

fall cooking - and layered potatoes and leeks

The season for comfort food is upon us, and we've been busy in the kitchen the last couple of days making chicken stock (using bones saved from summer cooking), pumpkin puree for future baking, and even some corn muffins. Today while we had the oven on anyway, we decided to make Layered Potatoes and Leeks, since we had both leeks and potatoes left from previous weeks' CSA shares. I tried to take a photo, but it didn't come out well - the recipe on the other hand comes out quite well (grin). Enjoy!!

Layered Potatoes and Leeks

2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces yogurt

Sauté leeks, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary in olive oil until leeks are tender but not brown.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil; add potatoes and return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain.

Grease a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Arrange 1 cup of the potato slices over the bottom of the dish, overlapping slices if necessary. Spoon one third of the leek mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the cheese. Repeat layering with potatoes, leek mixture and cheese to make 6 layers. Drizzle top with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake uncovered in a 400 degree F. oven about one hour or until potatoes are golden brown and tender. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with yogurt.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

farmers' market trip - newmarket and portsmouth

This morning the sun was shining and the wind was blowing, and it was a great day to head to the farmers' markets!

This is the last week until November for the Newmarket market. In Newmarket, we picked up some Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. I love Brussels sprouts! When we were bagging them up, a couple walked by us - the woman gasped and said, "look at those people - they're buying BRUSSELS SPROUTS" - and the man replied, "well dear, some people do actually like them..." It made me laugh - she doesn't know what she's missing. Fresh-picked Brussels sprouts, steamed and served with a tiny bit of butter, are nothing but yummy!!

From Newmarket, we headed to Barker's farm stand - where we picked up a pie pumpkin, storage onions, and some corn. It is a tradition in our family that every year for Thanksgiving, I make a slightly overcooked pumpkin pie (my stepfather would say "burned" - but I prefer "slightly overcooked" (grin)) . As I've mentioned before, my husband does most of the cooking in our house (for which I am eternally grateful). But pie is something that I make every year. And for some reason, no matter how closely I watch the oven, and how much I try to avoid it happening, my pie is always a little on the well-done side of the spectrum. But it tastes good despite its appearance, and that's what counts, right? :-)

After Barker's we headed to Portsmouth. We hadn't been to the Portsmouth market for a couple months, and we were curious to see what treasures we would find. We brought home more broccoli, some baby bok choy, and a big bag of green beans. Looking forward to a stir fry for dinner tonight!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

mo-pug moment

Mo-pug loves sunbeams, and she loves to look out the window… but holding up her head is sure a lot of work... :-)