I don’t know about you, but this time of year my fridge is completely bare. At the moment, I’ve got a sad, lonely egg sitting in there with a container of leftover slaw salad, a bottle of white wine and a whole bunch of half-filled dipping sauces.
Maybe it was the state of the fridge that brought me to one of my favorite moments in the sloppy, early spring thaw out: purchasing the CSA share. Hooking up Midnight Sun Farm with a big fat check means we’ll have a fridge full of green (and red, and yellow, and purple…) all summer long, and a pantry of potatoes in the fall. I can barely contain my excitement – seriously. Continue reading Dreaming of Vegetables.
It’s taken me a long time to learn how to spend time by myself.
I guess I’m still learning, really.
After a year of working 60-80 hours a week, followed by a surprisingly hectic summer, followed by the hit to the face that comes with the first week of school, I was surprised to find myself with three days on my calendar that were actually…. blank.
Huh? What is this strange feeling of time off? The GF is traveling, which means football is off my radar, and I can’t figure out what people do with themselves when this phenomenon called days off occur for every 5 days. Um, well, I guess I’ll, well, polish up seven weeks of upcoming lectures and watch an equivalent 7 hours of Law and Order: SVU on Hulu.
And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.
I wanted today to be different. I wanted Sunday to be this productive day where I do this that I claim to be doing on my blog and Pinterest while I’m really sitting on the couch with Detective Tutuola. After a somewhat thorough cleaning of the kitchen and laundry-doing earlier today, I put on some jazz music, opened the windows and a bottle of wine, and got a bit crafty. It’s about time I lived up to my name.
So, I repurposed my mother’s old kitchen curtains into a sassy new apron, baked a pan of chicken for my lunches this week, and froze most of the vegetables that arrived in my CSA this morning – while wearing the new apron (naturally).
I’m sure you find this all very interesting, but now as I sit at my desk, listening to the sounds of the city out the window and rumbles of thunder as a storm approaches, Ella Fitzgerald humming softly on the stereo, sipping my glass of wine, feeling accomplished, I couldn’t ask for a more perfect evening. With all due respect, Detectives, you’ve been replaced (for now).
As I climbed the step stool and stored jar after jar of tomato sauce on top of the cupboards in my tiny kitchen, I gave myself a serious pat on the back:
Well, Warnecke, you’ve done it. You preserved enough tomatoes to make it through the winter, and next spring too. Well. done.
A pasta dish and a couple of homemade pizzas later and I’m about half way through my stash before the first snow. I’ve been yearning for the full experience of eating and living seasonally, and seriously want to make a pizza in February without buying a mealy tomato from Mexico. I thought this might be my year, but, alas, it seems not.
I realize that my quest to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder is somewhat impeded by living in a twenty-first century metropolis with 8 cubic feet of outdoor space…
It’s a process, but I’m determined to do it, and this year is apparently part of the learning process in what I actually need to do to get through a winter sans the produce aisle.
Next year I’ll be upping my game. I’m thinking, instead of thirty, I should really be canning more like 130 pounds of tomatoes.
I pseudo inherited my crock pot from my mother while foraging her basement on a Sunday trip to the suburbs. This 1975 Sears “Crock Watcher” is older than me, but undoubtedly in better condition.
If the 70’s got anything right, it’s the slow cooker. The idea that I can stick something in there at 6am before I leave for work, cover it with liquid, and come home to a good smelling house AND dinner still boggles my mind, and I do it about every other week…. sometimes more, sometimes less.
Lately Old Faithful has been working overtime cranking out tomato sauce to stock up for the winter. I bought 30 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun Farm over the course of three weeks and have made tomato processing an obsession.
After an epic fail on the stove of sauce that was way more juicy than saucy, I revamped my approach. Ok, it wasn’t entirely a fail, just a misunderstanding between me and the tomatoes, really. After consulting mom (my go-to for kitchen mishaps) and my friend and fellow canning-enthusiast Toni Camphouse, I opted to try the slow cooker approach, and I’m never turning back.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
Canning jars and lids
Core and quarter tomatoes and fill your slow cooker. Prop the lid open with a spoon and cook all day on low.
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the tomatoes until smooth. Pre-fill canning jars with salt and lemon juice. For quart jars, use 2TB lemon juice and 1 tsp. salt*. Half those if using pint jars. Add sauce to jars and fill to 1/2″ from the top. Cover with lid and band, twisting until hand tight.
Add jars to water bath (making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch). Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a rolling boil and set time for 30-40 minutes (30 for pint jars, 40 for quart). Remove from water bath and set on a level surface to cool (don’t shake the jars). Store for as long as you like, or about a year, whichever comes first.
* You can add seasoning to your sauce before you jar it, but I prefer to do it once I open the jar so the herbs and spices are fresher.
We’re on the heels of my favorite season. The mornings now have a bite in the air, fashion scarves and sweaters are becoming imperative, and everything around me is turning into orange-y and amber hues. Though I’m a California girl at heart, I’ve lived in the Midwest for almost 25 years. The one thing about living here that has kept me from continually accosting my parents for moving us across the country is the leaves. Well, they have leaves in California, but they don’t turn orange and gold and burgundy.
Some people live life with rose-colored glasses; my glasses are burgundy.
Plus, the idea of not sweating profusely every time I go somewhere is highly appealing to me.
The farmer’s market is becoming particularly bountiful, and though it’s sad to see summer squash and tomatoes go out of my life, the beginning of fall means it’s “squirrel time”. What I mean is, I’m trying to make time to take everything that still just barely at it’s peak of freshness and dry it, freeze it or can it for the winter.
I’ve always wanted to make an attempt to preserve enough produce to make it through the winter without buying a shriveled up zucchini that was grown in the middle of Mexico and shipped to my local store on a refrigerator truck.
I know that this isn’t the year for me to make this happen full stop, but nonetheless I’ve managed to buy and can or freeze 25 pounds of tomatoes, pickle a bunch of beets, blanch and freeze broccoli, eggplant, and green beans, and there is a batch of crispy squash chips in the oven as I type. I got a really big squash in my CSA box last week, was told it would be the last one, and, having eaten one squash too many, this is what I chose to do with it:
Zucchini or summer squash, thinly sliced and dried on a paper towel
Line a baking sheet (or two) with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (spraying it with cooking spray works fine too). Arrange the squash slices in a single layer and coat with olive oil using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with a modest amount of salt and bake at 275-F for a LONG time (several hours). When they are firm and crispy, they’re done.
A great substitute for potato chips, use these chips up in about three days, stored in a plastic bag or wrapped in a tea towel
Tomatoes are so delicious. I can eat them whole. Like apples. For about two days.
When the tomatoes started arriving in my CSA box, I jumped for joy and literally squealed. It’s a BIG deal for seasonal eaters when the tomatoes are ready. I think I ate one with every meal for the first couple days, and then as swiftly as my excitement rose it passed.
A couple days ago, I just stopped being in the mood for tomatoes. Without enough supply to justify a full-on canning session, I looked back to my box and thought, wow, this could be an opportunity to use up the onions, garlic, and jalapenos too! So I threw together this beautiful and really, really spicy salsa. My hope is that with a few days in the fridge will take the edge off, but if you like hot, THIS is the salsa for you:
Spicy Garden Salsa
About five big tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 C. onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 jalapenos, seeded, de-veined, and chopped (or, keep a few seeds in if you dare) *
Splash of vinegar
1 TB sugar
1/2 tsp. cumin
Mix up in a bowl and eat it. Or, store in a mason jar in the fridge and eat it later.
If you’re smart, unlike me, you’ll wear gloves when dealing with hot peppers. I didn’t and then scratched my forehead and it was still burning 30 minutes later…
There are plenty of great recipes for canning salsas to increase their shelf life. I just chose to do a quick fridge-worthy salsa because I was short on time, it’s really hot in the kitchen, and I figure this will be in my stomach before long.
Salsa is not just for chips! Use this to add flavor to your tacos, eggs, or make a sassy and refreshing salad by adding it to cubed fresh watermelon
and then, I thought, those posts just didn’t seem that interesting to me anyway.
So I ditched the weekly updates on what arrived in my box of deliciousness and opted to spend the time eating said deliciousness instead. What has resulted is perhaps one of the most culinarily creative summers I’ve had to date, and a REALLY conscious effort to not let anything go to waste. Once you’ve weeded carrots with your own hands you’ll never let them turn flimsy and brown in the fridge again.
So now comes that point in the post where I share a recipe, and although I can’t take credit for the nifty taco shell because I saw it on The Garden Pantry‘s Facebook Page and had to try it. The rest? Leftovers.
Lauren’s Leftover Taco Night
Corn tortillas (make sure they are good quality and extra soft)
1/2 lb. Ground Turkey
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1 onion, diced
whatever veg is in your fridge: I used lettuce, scallions, cherry tomatoes
Pre-heat oven to 375 deg-F. Using a muffin pan turned upside down, press tortillas into the notches and spray with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes for cute little crispy taco shells.
Brown the ground turkey in a skillet coated in non-stick cooking spray over medium high heat. Add the taco seasoning and diced onion and cook until onion is soft and translucent. Place turkey aside on a plate covered in paper towel to drain oil.
Prepare your tacos in the shells. with the meat on the bottom. Add your toppings, squeeze some fresh lime juice over the top, and pour yourself a margarita.