Saturday, January 30, 2010

Socks - Mystery Clue 4 finished

It's been an interesting experiment knitting these socks.  One sock is on a #1 circular needle and the other sock is on double pointed #1 needles.  I had to learn the Magic Loop method for the circular needle and the jury is still out on which method I prefer.  There are many mistakes on the sock knitted with Magic Loop - both because the method was new to me and it was more difficult to pay attention to where I was in the pattern.  So if you look closely, one set of girls are more "pear shaped" than the other set.  At least with the DP needles, it was easier to keep my place.  It's also been fun only working on a portion of the pattern at a time.  It feels like more is getting accomplished and I won't have the dreaded "second sock syndrome".  Clue 5 comes on on Feb 2.




Thursday, January 28, 2010

More preserving - Hot Sauce

I decided to finally make a batch of hot sauce to use up all the hot peppers in the freezer.  I used a recipe from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. 

I defrosted 2 - gallon bags of crushed tomatoes (from my garden) - the juice separated a bit but I mixed it all together.  The recipe called for  8 cups of chopped, peeled, seeded tomatoes so I thought this was a good substitute.

Here is a sample of hot peppers used - most from Farmer Allan but many from my gardening friend Edouard's plants (he was traveling for 2 months and I got to pick what I wanted from his garden) - I wore gloves and seeded these peppers. I was sneezing and coughing by the end!

Pickling spice - a mixture of many things like cinnamon, bay, cardamon, mustard seeds, coriander and other things

Combine in pot, add 2 cups white vinegar.  Simmer until peppers are soft, then puree. Back on stove with pickling spices, sugar and more white vinegar.  Simmer until thick.


Sean and I opened a jar last night and while it was hot, it wasn't lip numbing.  Very very tasty and we ate it on a saute of sausage and kale.  Delicious

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Garden redesign - pictures

Back in November, my gardening friend Edouard asked me if I wanted to incorporate a little piece of his plot into my plot.  How could I say no?  When we were finished with the work, his daughter dropped by and took some pictures of the garden.  The tall plants in front of me are fava beans - they were crushed during our snowstorm in Dec so I have no idea if they will bounce back.  The older Italian man in my garden (who has a FABULOUS garden) tsk tsked when he saw the fava plants - he told me he plants his in Feb and that I did it too early.  We'll see what happens, that's what gardening is all about, trying new things.







Monday, January 25, 2010

Dark Days Challenge Week 11

This week's meal was butternut squash gnocchi with stewed collard greens.   I defrosted two packets of squash from my garden (not really butternut but a variety called Amber Cup). 

Add salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and enough flour to make a dough. In this case, about 3 cups.

 Take a piece and roll out and then cut into 1 inch pieces



Little gnocchi men!

Collard greens, bought Sat at farmer's market.  Boil for 10 min or so until softened.  Then take a spoonful of bacon grease (saved from last year's local bacon) and melt in pan.  Add chopped greens and some chicken broth.  Simmer for several minutes, add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil gnocchi until they come to the surface of pot.  I made a white sauce and mix with dumplings, top with grated parmesan cheese and bake in the oven until hot and bubbly.




Saturday, January 23, 2010

2008 Book Reads

Here is what I read in 2008 - from my notebook
* Mother/Daughter Book Group read


Journey to Topaz, Yoshiko Ulchida*
Sisters Grimm: Magic and Other Misdemeanors, Michael Buckley


The Fifth Woman, Henning Mankell
Cabal, Michael Dibdin
Don't Point that Thing at Me, Kyril Bonfiglioli


Eat This, Ian Jackman
One Step Behind, Henning Mankell
Cosi Fan Tutti, Michael Dibdin


The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Death of an Englishman, Magdalen Nabb
Firewall, Henning Mankell
A Long Finish, Michael Dibdin
Death of a Dutchman, Magdalen Nabb


Criss Cross, Lynne Rae Perkins*
Death in Springtime, Magdalen Nabb
Blood Rain, Michael Dibdin


First Light, Rebecca Stead*
Sound Bites, Alex Kapranos
The Queen Jade, Yxta Maya Murray
The Falconer's Knot, Mary Hoffman


Animal Vegetable Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver
Battle of the Labrynth, Rick Riordan
The Year of the Goat, Margaret Hathaway


To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee*
And Then You Die, Michael Dibdin
Death in Autumn, Magdalen Nabb
The Outermost House, Henry Beston
Medusa, Michael Dibdin
The Marshal and the Murderer, Magdalen Nabb


Four Letter Words and Other Secrets of a Crossword Insider, Michelle Arnot
Back to Bologna, Michael Dibdin
The Marshall and the Madwoman, Magdalen Nabb
End Games, Michael Dibdin


Donuts: An American Passion John T Edge
The Marshall's Own Case, Magdalen Nabb
The Alchemyst, Michael Scott*
The Secret Language of Knitters, Mary Beth Temple
A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel


The Marshal Makes His Report, Magdalen Nabb
Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan*
Apple Pie, John T Edge
Fried Chicken, John T Edge
The Marshal at the Villa Torrini, Magdalen Nabb


Beyond the Big Talk, Debra Haffner
From Diapers to Dting, Debra Haffner
The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense, Deborah Roffman
The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett*
Goose Girl, Shannon Hale
Dark Banquet: blood and the curious lives of blood-feeding creature, Bill Schutt
The Ghost in Love, Jonathan Carroll 
Organic gardening : the natural no-dig way, Charles Dowding

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mystery Sock Clue II

Mystery Sock clue II was posted on Sunday night.  I've finished the sock on the double pointed needles and now working on the circular needle.  The next clue will be posted on Sunday.

This clue incorporated Mosaic knitting and this pattern is called Dancing Girls Mosaic Motif.  Mosiac is working only one color yarn at a time - much easier than carrying colors along - something I've never been able to master.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preserved lemons and beet soup

I bought a whole bag of very non-local lemons at Costco this week (really, where do I get local lemons in DC?)

I decided to try and make preserved lemons.  This recipe comes from Madjur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.  You take 2 lbs of lemons, cut them in quarters and toss with a mixture of spices and sugar and lots and lots of salt.  Then layer in jars, add more lemon juice.  I have put them in the fridge and shake the jar every day.  Supposedly the skins will soften in a month or so.



I had a hankering for cold buttermilk beet soup.  The buttermilk from my local dairy is fantastic and the recipe is very easy.  I canned several jars of beets this summer.  They look funny because all the color bled out of the beets during the pressure canning process.  I had cooked them first with the skins on and when the beets went into the jars, they were purple.  I don't know what happened!  Anyway, I drained a jar of beets, added some glugs of buttermilk to the blender, lots of dried dill and salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth.




Monday, January 18, 2010

Dark Days Challenge Week 10


Saturday was the day to pick up the Heritage Hog from Farmer Allan.

Pick up site - the Farmer's son, standing guard over the meat

Farmer Allan



Local Farmer's Market - Stopped here after pork pickup

Of course this week's Dark Days Challenge meal had to use the pork.  So Sean and I decided to make sausage with mustard greens and sweet potato fries.

Sweet potato - I still have LOTS from my garden

Sauteing the sausage

Mustard Greens from farmer's market

Oven baked sweet potato fries

Sauteed sausage with greens


Sunday, January 17, 2010

The garbage can

Between composting and recycling, our household doesn't generate that much garbage - maybe a trash bag a week and not even a full one.  Today I decided to start to track what is going into the garbage can, to see what is being tossed.

Started with the empty bag last week and so far, I have thrown in:

2 empty butter wrappers
1 Target gift card holder
plastic tea bag covers
plastic top to milk bottle
a piece of plastic packaging from son's DS game
plastic top to seltzer bottle
plastic straw
kit kat wrapper
plastic bag from a robot model - parts were in bags
64 oz juice carton
2 rubber gloves
plastic bag for potatoes
ice cream container
Crisco wrapper
frozen container that held apple juice concentrate
tissues - lots and lots of them
candy bar wrapper
plastic liner that held bread
 Plastic container that butter came in (can't be recycled)
plastic hanger
plastic bag for nuts
1 bag full of trash from bathroom (mostly tissues and q-tips)

Plastic plastic and more plastic - none of it can be recycled.  What can I do to eliminate more plastic?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seeds to order

It's funny how things happen.  Last week my friend Gwendolyn was telling me about her sister's crusade against Monsanto.  Then I read Nyack Backyard's post about Monsanto.  Then coming home one day this week, there was a story on NPR about Monsanto and their genetically engineered seeds.  It was fate that I am now thinking about where I buy my seeds.

These are the catalogs I'm going to consider

Abundant Life Seed
Seed Savers Exchange
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

Here is my problem.  What is the definition of heirloom vs. organic vs. hybrid vs. open pollinated vs. anything else?

There is something called the Safe Seed Pledge
There is the Organic Seed Alliance.  This site has a list of nurseries that sell organic seeds but some of these companies also have hybrids.

What is a poor home gardener to do?

How much more research should I be doing?  And what about the plants that I'm going to buy?  My guess is the local nurseries are buying their seeds from the usual sources - I don't have time to call my usual places and ask the source of their seeds, before I buy their plants.

It's too complicated.

Happy 101 Award

My friend at Midwest Green tagged me in a Happy 101 Award!  What a fun idea.  Here goes my try

Here are the rules for the Happy 101 Award
  • List 10 things that make you happy. (Try to do one of them today)
  • Tag 10 bloggers that make you happy.
  • Make sure to link back to the person that tagged you. 
10 things that make me happy

1.  Cooking with my honey, Sean.
2.  Making my son laugh so hard he falls off the chair.
3. Having my 12 (almost 13) year old daughter sit on my lap while we watch TV.
4. Puttering around in my garden in my yard.
5. Spending hours in my community vegetable garden plot.
6. Knitting
7. Spending time with my friends, especially Patricia.
8. Tap dancing (10 min after my first lesson, my teacher proclaimed "you are a tap dancer").
9. Interlibrary loan.  The absolute best perk of working in a library.
10. Free museums in DC.

Here are 10 blogs that I enjoy reading ( I won't list Midwest Green but she raises llamas so what's not to love about her blog?!)

mommy porch - another local food follower.
the blue blog - an amazing knitter.
Nature Hero - my son, what can I say?
guinnah - delicious food being cooked here.
Nyack Backyard - a kindred gardening spirit.
When Life Gives You Lemons - my daughter and her friend - they are brilliant middle schoolers.
(not so) Urban Hennery -inspiring me to the Dark Days Challenge.
The HenCam - all chickens, all the time.
Gradually Greener - a DC urban gardener.
Retro Housewife Goes Green - giving me ideas of how I can be more green.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dark Days Challenge Week 9

My local farmer's market had taken a break over the holidays but it was back last week.    There was a better selection than I expected.

Asian pear, broccoli, young chard, kohlrabi

carrots, Gala apples, grass fed cheddar cheese

Last night we had our week 9 meal (has it been 9 weeks already?).  I decided to make a cheese souffle with a side of steamed broccoli and a salad of young chard and sliced kohlrabi for me and just a little lettuce from the cold frame for the kids.  My kids will eat salad but with no dressing.  Blah I say, but at least they are eating the greens.

The souffle was made with milk, eggs, butter from South Mountain Creamery and I used the cheese from the farmer's market.  It's from Clear Spring Creamery in Clear Spring, MD.   Cheese from grass fed cows is definitely an acquired taste so I prefer to use it in cooking instead of eating it out of hand. 

Souffle, ready for the oven

Fresh from the oven

Young chard with sliced raw kohlrabi - dressed with vinaigrette

Lettuce from the cold frame

Souffle and broccoli

Next week - PORK!  My heritage hog (Tamworth) is scheduled to be delivered on Saturday.  Farmer Allan asked me if I wanted the rendered lard or did I want to donate it to his chickens.  The chickens are getting a feast since I can't possibly make enough pies to use up that much lard.  Plus, in my annual checkup this week, my bad cholesterol has gone up 30 points since last year - could it be the pork?  Or the delicious cheese I love?  In any case, the pig is coming so I will need to start exercising more to make up for the bacon and sausage I will be eating.  Maybe I'll make S eat more of it than me.  I told him he needs to stop participating in these loner sports (biking) and help me out with exercising together.  He was not sympathetic to my plight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Garden Catalogs

The garden catalogs are arriving.   I want to order everything - well, almost everything. Not eggplant.  Or okra.

My friend at Nyack Backyard has an interesting post about Monsanto and hybrid seeds.  Frankly, this is something that I never really considered when buying seeds.  I always just bought what I wanted to try from a couple of favorite nurseries.  There is a list here of seed companies that are supposedly not affiliated with Monsanto so I'll spend some time browsing.

Nyack has also rated all her plants she grew last year. J, will you come live with me?!  I'll plant, water, weed and cook while you document.  That is one task I just don't do.  In the past, I have used a notebook to write down what is planted at the beginning of the season and then never pick it up again.

I have given up on trying to grow melons.  I do want to plant sweet potatoes again especially since my friend will split the plants with me (one orders 12 "slips" and boy did they all produce this year).  Other than that, I'm open to trying new things.

I was also considering starting my plants such as tomatoes and peppers but here is the problem.  I usually like several varieties - so there will be 6-8 tomato plants, each a different kind.  It doesn't make sense to buy 6 packages of tomato seeds to start - I'll have a gazillion plants and it would be cost effective to just buy the plants.    My favorite place is Debaggio's in VA.  So the question is, what do I try from seed?  Broccoli?  Lettuce?  something else?

Plus, what new vegetable should I try this year? I think I'll browse my catalog and pick out a few things and post for comments.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2007 Book Reads

My friend at the mommy porch made a comment about all the children's books on my list.  A few years ago, my daughter wanted me to read everything she was reading, so during those earlier years, the bulk of books I read were for kids.

*Mother Daughter Book Club


Escaping the Giant Wave, Peg Kehret*

Sisters Grimm, Michael Buckley
The Fairy Tale Detectives,  Michael Buckley
The Unusual Suspects, Michael Buckley
The Problem Child, Michael Buckley


Seeking Whom He May Devour, Fred Vargas
Faceless Killers, Henning Mankell

Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare*


The Case of the Missing Books, Ian Sansom

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart


Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech*

A Round-Heeled Woman, Jane Juska

Vendetta, Micahel Dibdin


Invincible, Sally Rosenbarg Romansky*
Death and Judgement, Donna Leon

Ten Second Staircase, Christopher Fowler


The White Lioness, Henning Manfell
Long Way to Chicago, Richard Peck*
Sun and Shadow, Ake Edwardson

The Titan's Curse, Rick Riordan


White Corridor, Christopher Fowler

The Apprentice, Jacques Pepin

Uniform Justice, Donna Leon


Suffer the Little Children, Donna Leon
The Man Who Smiled, Henning Mankell


Lean Mean Thirteen, Janet Evanovich

Enchantment, Donald Spoto


The Laughing Policeman, Per Wahloo
Some Kind of Pride, Maria Testa*


The Book of Air and Shadows, Michael Gruber


Sidetracked, Henning Mankell
How to Pick a Peach, Russ Parsons

Lois Lenz: Lesbian Secretary, Monica Nolan