23 July 2008

Putting it by, part 3

I've been meaning to write this post for days (almost weeks, actually). I think I might have been so overwhelmed by all the strawberries (and I think I might have overwhelmed you all too) that I wanted to have a little breather before starting in with...the raspberries. Yes that's right. More berries here. You might remember the raspberries from last year, but, um, this is why I love my landlords. They just planted all these raspberries (presumably it was when they themselves lived here) in the backyard, and have just left them here for us to enjoy. And enjoy them we do. Last year these raspberries were the instigator for my very first foray into large scale jam-making and canning.

Somehow this year (probably due to my lack of pruning, oops!), we have maybe ten times as many berries as we did last year. It's insane. Literally last week I was picking at least one quart a day (there was a three quart day in there somewhere). And I know my neighbor is picking them too! So, needless to say, there's been some more "putting it by" going on here. I made some jam, with this recipe (same as last year). I also wanted to try some rhubarb/raspberry jam. So I whipped up a recipe for that too (keep reading, it's down below).

After the rhubarb gallette, I wanted to try a raspberry one too. I used the same recipe for the pate brisee crust, but used this recipe for the filling. I adjusted the berry amounts in the filling because I really wanted it to be a little more raspberry than rhubarb. I used about three and a half cups rhubarb and four cups raspberry. I'm pretty sure that's more berries than is intended for this recipe, but I didn't increase the sugar or any other ingredients. I thought it turned out delicious (and I'm pretty sure my friends did too, right Sarah?), but it definitely was kind of tart, so you might want to add some more sugar (I'm sensing a pattern here- didn't we go over this with the rhubarb muffins?). I'm finding that I really love making these gallettes, and I can't wait to make some fall ones with apples or pears. I just need to get better at not rolling the crust out too much, because the juices from the filling always breaks through and makes a huge mess in the pan.

So here is the recipe for the jam. It's pretty simple and you could definitely increase the rhubarb a bit if you want it to have a stronger flavor. This amount was solely based on how much I was able to harvest from my garden at the time I was making the jam. I know that a lot of folks out there are afraid of the whole boiling water bath/hot jar thing. And I have to say that I definitely was too when I first tried it last year. Again, I would definitely recommend the book, Putting Food By, for all the information and recipes you could ever want (or at least enough to get you started). There's also some great information here and here, or just head over to your local library and find whatever books they have (that's what I did last year). I know I had visions of hot jars full of boiling hot jam bursting and shattering all over the place. And I honestly have to say that it was a million times simpler than I ever imagined. I would, however, recommend a jar lifter and a funnel as two essential tools that you might (as I did last year) think you don't need. I promise, it'll make the experience much easier, and much less messy. By no means am I any kind of expert, but certainly feel free to shoot me questions about this if you have any, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Raspberry-Rhubarb Jam

1 heaping cup of chopped rhubarb (or more, if you have it!)
6 cups raspberries
7 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 250. Spread sugar into a large, rimmed, baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes (warm sugar dissolves in the jam better). Pour raspberries and rhubarb into a large stockpot and mash as they soften. Bring to a boil. Add sugar and lemon juice and return to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" headroom. Process in a boiling water bath.

As always, if you try this recipe, let me know what you think. Thanks, and happy Wednesday, friends!

21 July 2008

thrifting, the green edition

I've been thinking about how long it's been since I posted some good thrifting finds, and frankly, I can't even remember (this is one of those times when I'm far too tired to look in the archives, but I'm sure it was months ago). Last summer, I felt like I was on a yard sale high every weekend. There was even that time when we were car-less that I went all around the city on my bike (I think I clocked in at about 13 miles- in some very hilly parts of the city too) to hit up some great sales (I know I said I was too tired for the archives, but this was just too ridiculous, I had to share it with you all). But this summer, I don't know, it's been kinda slow. So Friday afternoon I decided that I was going to remedy that this very weekend. I scrolled through the garage sale announcements on craigslist, wrote down a few that looked good, and hit the road early Saturday morning. I'm happy to report, that I was pretty darn successful. And, um, it seems like I was really into green this weekend too...

My favorite vintage canning jars. I love the blue-green tinting and they're perfect for vases, or storing buttons or other treasures. (They're often a little sharp around the mouth, so I don't usually use them for drinking or food).

Jared is always on the lookout for lamps. I think this would be perfect in his studio (see how nice I am? Buying him vintage lamps while he's left me alone all summer?!)

This was an excellent find. Of course, it just makes me think of Meg, and the amazing work she does with cases like these. There was another one (in worse shape) that I totally would have bought and sent to her, if they weren't so big! I think I'll keep this one as is though, and leave the decoupaging to the experts.

Just Friday night I was discussing with some friends my love for vintage pyrex and how no matter what, I'll pretty much always buy one if I see it. Well, um, here we are again! The flower pattern on this one is actually much more of an olive green that it looks like in this photo. I can't wait to bake some delicious bread in this one! (Maybe now I can get rid of those loaf pans I bought at walgreens years ago!)

In my opinion, this was the find of the day. I don't know why, but I fell in love with this plate right away. I've decided that I want to start collecting vintage-y plates. Right now we have a whole set of matching dishes that Jared's parents' gave us when we moved here (it was their old set). We SO appreciated that gift and it's so nice to have such sturdy dishes (and they match!). But, um, I don't really love them. I'm kind of thinking it would be nice to start collecting some plates like this one that all go together (even if they're not actually matching). Or maybe even make a plate wall...For now, I'll probably use this as a serving plate, until I collect more (see, I always knew I needed more stuff!).

I also picked up a couple other odds and ends, a bit of fabric, some clothing, etc. All in all, it was a pretty good yard sailing morning. And, on top of all my finds, my mom called me Saturday morning when she and my dad were at a yard sale to see if I wanted them to buy me a vintage suitcase! So I even scored at a yard sale I didn't even go to! (Thanks mom!) I also realized in writing this that on my last big thrifting score day (that was months ago, and I somehow neglected to post about here and included a complete set of four pyrex nesting bowls and matching butter dish, a suitcase, office chair, and other treasures) I also seemed to have color theme- that day was mustard yellow...

Have you had any good thrifting finds recently?

17 July 2008


I realized that it's been quite a while since my last garden update. And even that was kind of a sad one. As much as I'm loving polaroid (which is a whole different story in itself), it wasn't really the best method for documenting garden progress. Regardless, things have progressed, and it's time to share that progress. First, a disclaimer, I need to weed. Okay, there, I said it. I try to be good about it (which I generally am), but it's been so freaking hot, plus it just rained today so everything's going nuts. Right, now we move on.

First, here is my whole garden plot. Click on the photo for specifics on what's planted where.

The final cast of characters here (this is just my community garden plot- there's a bit more at my house) includes: zucchini, summer squash, golden beets, carrots, salad greens, bell peppers, rainbow chard, spinach (which is doing some odd things right now, including not growing...), chives, and three kinds of tomatoes. There was also a bit of asparagus and some strawberries earlier in the season. In my backyard, I've got two kinds of beans and a little herb patch. Oh, and the raspberries (this is for a different post, as these raspberries are their own beast).

(first zucchini- picked today and eaten for dinner)

Things got off to an interesting start with the garden this year (keeping in mind that this is only my second year having a garden at all). I thought I would be really on top of things and start lots of seeds super early. This was only mildly successful. The tomatoes mostly seemed to do well. But again, I had issues once I moved them outside. I built them little wind protectors out of old gallon plastic jugs (just cut off the top and bottom and stuck it into the soil around each plant). The chard that I started early did okay- I had about five plants, but only three survived the transplant. Similarly, I had four jalapeno peppers, none of which survived the move outdoors. Also- the broccoli freaked out and grew a really long stem and definitely looked wrong when I planted them outside...those lasted about a week.

(rainbow chard)

I'm still going back and forth on the seed starting thing. I think if I'm going to do it again next year, I'll have to set up more of an indoor growing system and really try to do a better job so that the plants have an earlier start and are taller than 2" when I move them outside (as was the case with the peppers). We'll see where I'm at next March.

(golden california wonder peppers)

I also tried to plant kale, twice. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, no sprouts ever came up. I have no idea what happened, but that was bizarre. There were a couple of things I wanted to plant this year that I didn't get around to investigating (aside from the things that I tried that didn't work out). These were: cucumber, onions, garlic, potatoes, and melon. I'll have to work on those, at least a couple of them, for next year.
(roma tomato beginnings)

This year's garden is a bit behind last year's, but I think that is mostly attributable to the weather. We haven't had much rain, and it was pretty cool for a while (not that I'm complaining about that part!). I looked back in the archives and realized that last year I harvested my first zucchini on July 4. This year, the first zucchini (of many many more to come) was harvested just this afternoon.

(first golden beet, not quite ready)

I also feel like last year, I was so nervous about how everything would go, and grow, that I was super attentive to everything. I weeded much more often (and much more thoroughly) than I am this year as well. I think the most valuable thing I learned last year was that there's only so much I can control. I can water, and thin out, and weed, but no matter what I do, the plants will grow as they will. They will produce their fruits. And I will eat them as they are ready.

(chive blossoms)

15 July 2008

It Hurts (also, I'm sorry)

It's so hot right now that it's almost painful to think about writing this post. If where you are, it's too hot to think about turning on the oven, then I fully apologize for bringing this up. In that case, do not even read further, but bookmark this page for later, because you're gonna want to try this. This recipe is such an old standby that I can't even believe I haven't posted it here yet. In fact, I've intentionally not written about it the past few times I've made it because I was so sure I had already shared the recipe with you all. But alas, I searched the archives this morning and did not find it (if I happened to have missed it, sorry for the repeat!).

I feel like banana bread is something that everyone makes at one point. It may or may not always be the best recipe, but it seems so basic, that we all try it eventually. I happen to love my recipe. It's (as are most of my recipes) an adaptation of my mom's (the adaptation, as always, being to make it vegan). I've found recently that even though I'm not vegan, having lived with one for a few years now, I've become so accustomed to vegan baking that the thought of baking with eggs (which is most frequently the only non-vegan ingredient, besides butter that is easily replaced with margarine) is quite overwhelming. I've also found that I'm not even used to the taste of "eggy" baked goods when made by someone else. Not that I don't enjoy non-vegan baked goods, but it can sometimes be a bit of a shock to my system.

In any case, this recipe is super easy and bakes for long enough that you can go outside and water the garden while the oven is heating up the kitchen. I also have a few variations that I'll list at the bottom--strawberry banana bread (if you're so lucky to still have local strawberries available) and banana nut muffins. As always, let me know if you try them, I'd love to hear feedback on the recipe!

Vegan Banana Bread

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup non dairy margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbl ground flax seed mixed with 6 tbl water (mix this together first to allow the flax and water to combine thoroughly)
2 overripe bananas (about 2 cups), mashed
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet, always-Guittard brand)
1/2-1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine flours and baking soda. In a separate medium sized bowl, cream together sugar and margarine. Add flax/water mixture and mashed bananas. Add wet mixture to flour mixture and combine. Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts. Spread into loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Sometimes I like to sprinkle some brown sugar and cinnamon on top too...Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy.

Strawberry Banana Bread:: Reduce bananas to 1 cup, and add 2 cups of sliced strawberries. Add 1 tsp orange extract. Alter flax/water mixture to 2 tbl flax + 3 tbl water (instead of 6 tbl water).

Banana Nut Muffins:: Reduce sugar to 1/3 cup brown sugar (instead of 2/3 cup). Increase baking soda to 1 1/4 tsp (instead of 1 tsp). Add 3 tbl soymilk. Bake in greased muffin tins for 15-20 minutes (use toothpick test as for banana bread).

14 July 2008

where my wardrobe grows and grows...

This project was so easy, I almost feel bad blogging about it. Seriously. I'm not trying to brag, I'm just sayin'...this seems so very unexciting that there's not too much to say here. Except, well, I made a new skirt. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that it's been quite hot here. And it's not going to be getting cooler anytime soon. I'm not so big on shorts, and I've been wearing lots of skirts this summer. I don't have to get dressed up for work, so I decided that I needed to increase the number of throw-it-on skirts. You know, those ones that are super comfy, cute, and just perfect for warm weather. Oh yeah, and easy to bike in. {Side note- I've come to realize that the only way to not feel self-conscious about potentially giving an unintended show while biking in a skirt is to just wear some spandex underneath. I know it's weird, but I've stopped getting looks, and for that, it's totally worth it}.

My further inspiration for this skirt, was that I got these amazing new shoes a couple weeks ago, and realized that I didn't have very many clothes that matched them. Naturally, I needed to make something. So I pulled out my trust SewU book and whipped this one out in about an hour and a half on Saturday night {I know, I'm so cool. Sewing on a Saturday night}. I just did a drawstring, so I didn't have to worry about the darts or zipper. I shortened it about seven inches so it's just a few inches above the knee, added some vintage lace as a trim on the bottom, and voila!

I bought this fabric as a remnant at JoAnn's last winter and immediately knew it would be a perfect summer skirt. I don't know exactly what it is, some kind of shirting I guess. Whatever it is, it's super lightweight, but not see through. I'm thinking it maybe needs a pocket. Any thoughts?

I think I talked about this last summer when I first got this book and started sewing clothing, but this really is the perfect book for a beginning garment sewer. Wendy explains how to read a pattern, choose the right fabric, cut the fabric, and all the details about sewing a garment, and modifying basic patterns to personalize them. I seriously don't know if I would have gotten over my fear of clothing patterns without this book. Also, my wardrobe would be about half as big. Melissa wrote a really great post on garment sewing, and how we decide if it's worth making certain things, or just buying them. I'm not really a big shopper, especially when it comes to clothing. Now that there are so many more beautiful handmade/socially responsible/environmentally responsible clothing options, it's a little easier. But my issue with clothing shopping is that I walk the fine line between being kind of cheap, and having a conscience that prevents me from shopping at places like The Gap. This combination is what really motivated me to start making my own clothing, and I'm pretty sure that my wardrobe would be just about where it was a year ago if I hadn't made myself sixteen articles of clothing in the last 12 months {yes, I just went into my closet and counted!}. I could go on and on about the costs of clothing and when it is or isn't "worth it" to make it yourself, but I think I'll save that for another post. In any case, I feel really proud of myself for all that I've learned and accomplished in this realm in the last year. And I'm also really excited about all the options that are out there now for those of us who don't sew/are afraid to sew clothes/want to support someone else's beautiful handiwork.

13 July 2008

inspiration, japanese style

I don't think I have too many words for you right now, but I did promise to share some more of those Japanese craft books I picked up in New York. The top four photos are from the book entitled "One Piece," ISBN: 978-4-579-11149-7. The bottom three photos are from the book "Linen and Cotton," ISBN: 978-4-277-72252-0 (this is the book that my shirt came from). I will say a few quick things on the topic of Japanese craft books while I'm on my little soapbox here.

The first is that I don't believe they are for the beginning sewer (unless you happen to read Japanese fluently), but they are perfect for someone who has basic sewing skills, and a decent understanding of clothing construction and following a pattern. I say this, not to discourage you beginner sewers out there (by all means go for it!), but to say that in my brief experience with these books, it is best to not go into a project from a Japanese craft book necessarily expecting to produce something exactly as it's pictured.

I personally view these books as inspiration, or as a jumping off point. Sometimes, it's super easy to follow the directions and pattern exactly how it's intended, but often, it's not so easy (again, without understanding the Japanese directions). I've thoroughly enjoyed the handful of garments that I've constructed so far from Japanese craft books, and will definitely be making more in the future. I think my desire (and so far limited ability) to design and construct my own patterns has definitely been furthered by these projects. It's probably the combination of fairly simple designs and the extensive amount of thought required to figure out how to construct these simple designs. So, I would highly recommend trying one of these books (there are tons available on ebay and etsy- and Amazon Japan, though that scares me), just be prepared to wind up with your own interpretation of the project. Also, you can always find more info here, and here (and be sure to check out the rest of this site- these ladies are doing an amazing job!).

Obviously, I don't plan to make everything in the photos below (wouldn't that be something!). Another great thing about these books is the photographs and the styling. I just love it, so simple yet all the details are always exactly in place. They're always so calm and subtle. So even if you don't even know how to sew, you could pick up some of these books just for the pretty pictures. They're quite nice to look at.

Hmmmm, I guess I did have some words for you after all! Without further ado, some inspiration...

11 July 2008

a little relief

Well hello Friday. Where did you come from? You are very welcome indeed. This short week seems to have gotten away from me (yes, I had Monday off of work as well, just one benefit of working for a poor nonprofit-lots of days off). I had all kinds of things to share with you all (yes, I do have a list). Oh well, there's always next week, you're not going anywhere are you? Good. So, I don't know what it's like in your neck of the woods. But here in the mini-apple, it's freaking hot. I don't do so well in the heat. My philosophy has always been that at least in cold weather you can put more and more layers on. When it's hot, well, there's only so many clothes you can take off. So, being that it's dangerously close to 100 degrees outside (and probably only slightly cooler inside my apartment), I'm working on some ways to find some relief.

I'm not a huge drinker, and I certainly don't fancy myself as someone who makes complicated cocktails (and by cocktails I mean something that has more than two ingredients), but I've been inspired by my herb garden recently. Also, so many others have been sharing summer drink recipes that I thought it was high time I got over my avoidance and enjoy myself.

Last weekend, when Jared was home, we had some friends over. I decided that it would be a great opportunity to use up some of the ever expanding mint that appears to be taking over my herb garden and make some mojitos. Ah yes, this was good. We made a pitcher's worth and it was just perfect. I found this recipe online (of course I can't remember where now, must be the heat) and I think it was pretty delicious, though I'll warn you it's a bit on the limey side. I think I like it that way. Molly also posted this recipe that's made with a lime syrup and that sounded pretty tasty as well. I might have to give that a whirl. Just as soon as it's cool enough to turn on the stove.

4-6 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about one lime)
1 tsp powdered sugar
handful of ice
1/4 cup light rum
1/4 club soda (and no, there is no difference between club soda and seltzer. I had to look it up).
1 sprig of fresh mint (for garnish)

Crush mint in glass with a muttler or back of a wooden spoon (don't pound it, just muttle). Add sugar and lime juice. Fill glass with ice. Add rum and top off with club soda. Pop in the sprig of mint and enjoy. Preferably on a porch or in some kind of shade. This is also tasty with a few fresh raspberries thrown in for good measure, you know, if you just happen to have some hanging around.

Happy weekend friends.

08 July 2008

I made a yoga mat bag

Sometimes, I just can't think of good titles for these posts. So I thought I'd go with the captain obvious option this morning. I know I talked back in February about doing yoga, which I've been practicing on and off for about 6 years. I have to say, I've never had a yoga mat bag. It was one of those accessories that I always deemed frivolous and unnecessary. When I lived in Vermont, my yoga class was in a neighboring town that was about a twenty to thirty minute drive away. So I would always just throw my mat in the car and head over. Back then, I really didn't need a bag. Now that my class is just a quick ten minute bike ride away, I kind of do need something functional to carry it in. I usually come home from work before my class, so generally, I'm not really bringing anything else with me besides myself and my mat. So I needed a bag that would have a pocket where I could keep my wallet, phone and keys since I won't be carrying any other bag. I also needed something that would be comfortable to wear while biking.

Naturally, I turned to Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing. I bought this book over a year ago, and the yoga mat bag was one of the projects that I immediately marked to try out. It's been on my to do list for about six months (probably more), but I finally got a new mat a few weeks ago, so I used this as incentive to make a new bag. I'm actually really glad that I waited for the mat, since it's a bit thicker than my old one (that was falling apart and shedding little bits of purple foam every time I used it) and it might not have fit into a bag that I might have made before.

The pattern is super simple and definitely appropriate for a beginning sewer. I made a couple of modifications that I would suggest. I lengthened the pocket so that instead of measuring 6"x6.5", it measures 6"x9". I also added a snap so that my phone won't fly out while I'm biking. For the strap, I widened it about an inch to make it more comfy while biking (I think I might have shortened it by a couple of inches, but I don't remember. Darn my non-notetaking!). My mat is a bit heavy, and I hate when bag straps get all scrunchy and end up digging into your shoulder. Finally, I made the entire bag bigger around. I would highly recommend measuring the circumference of your mat (when it's all rolled up). This bag is supposed to be about 16" around. Well, my mat measures 14" around and I'll tell you that it was pretty annoying to try to get it in and out of the bag. Definitely not convenient (who wants to be that person stuck there after class trying to get their mat in their bag because it just fits? Not me!). So I ended up adding another piece of fabric to make the bag measure about 20" around. Now, it probably doesn't need that much extra room. But I'll say that it makes it super easy to get the mat in and out of the bag. And it also means that there's room for my water bottle and maybe an extra shirt in the bag, which is really nice.

I used echino heavyweight cotton (from the stash!) and I think it's the perfect fabric for this project (it's this one, but in a different colorway that they don't appear to have at Superbuzzy). For the strap, I just used some lightweight navy blue cotton. It probably would have been good to use something stronger for the strap, but I only had just enough of the echino and I liked the contrast of the blue. We'll see how long the strap lasts, I think it'll be fine.

Also, about my new mat. It's amazing. It's this one, from Manduka and is made from natural rubber and is completely non-toxic. It's also biodegradable. I could off on a whole other tangent right now about consumer purchasing power and how every purchase we make matters and that we do (as consumers) have the power to encourage good business and manufacturing practices, but I won't. I will say this, briefly, that every time I buy something that is sustainably produced, handmade, made in a fair-trade or union working environment, or locally produced, I feel good. Because we can made a difference, one purchase at a time. I'm not saying we should all jump on the bandwagon of the latest and greatest
eco-friendly craze (whatever that might be), but that we should think before we buy and buy according to what's important to us. We have choices, and even though this isn't the cheapest yoga mat out there, it's worth the investment for a product that will last longer, was produced sustainably, is non-toxic for me, and will biodegrade back into the earth. So there, I made a yoga mat bag.

03 July 2008

how to make someone's day

In the warmer months, I bike to work almost everyday. Minneapolis is fortunate enough to have the incredible Midtown Greenway, a bike highway that cuts across the city along former railroad tracks. There are no cars, on and off ramps, community gardens lining the roadway, and sometimes there's even bike traffic (seriously). I really love the Greenway, I love not having to negotiate cars and traffic lights every morning (well, I do have to, but only for a few blocks). I get tired of drivers yelling at me that I should ride on the sidewalk (despite the clear illegality of that action), and I'm sure they get tired of me yelling back at them and giving them the one-finger salute. Minneapolis is definitely a bike friendly city (I think we might actually have the second highest number of bike commuters per capita-after Portland, obviously), but no matter where you go there will always be drivers who just don't get it.

So every morning, I happily hop on the Greenway, and ride the 1.8 miles to work. As I get off, there is a house that has the most beautiful (and quite large) vegetable garden. I remembered it from last year, and it's so fun to watch the progress throughout the summer, just by passing the house twice a day. I noticed a few weeks ago, that the owners of the house had built a really beautiful fence in their driveway out of tree brush. I just loved the way it looked and knew I needed to take a photo of it. For one reason or another, it didn't happen at first. I was always in a rush to get to work or get home. Or there was a car parked in the driveway, or laundry hanging in the yard, or people around.

Finally, one day on my way home from work I decided to stop putting it off and just take the photo. I stopped my bike, pulled out my camera, and got set up to take the photo. Just as I was kneeling down in the middle of their driveway, a car began to pull in. I got up, and tried to put away my camera, embarrassed to have been caught in the act. The driver of the car asked me if I was taking a photo of his fence and I reluctantly said yes, almost apologetically. His face lit up and he offered to park on the street so he wouldn't be in my way. I told him I passed by it almost everyday and I really loved how it looked. He said he had built it himself, kind of on a whim and was so amazed that someone else liked it, much less wanted to take a photo of it. He asked me to give him a copy of the photo when I got it developed (which I most surely will do). He told me that I made his day. I made his day. What a feeling. Who knew, that I could have the power to make someone's day.

But that's just it. We all have the power to make someone's day. And I'm pretty sure it usually doesn't take much. This almost reminded me of Andrea's 52 Strangers Project (don't worry, I won't start a 52 handbuilt fences project). But that's all it takes. Compliment someone's outfit. Take a photo of them. Do something nice for a stranger. There used to be this old sign near my house that said "be especially nice to someone today." Last year when I was bussing/walking to work, I used to see it every morning. I always wanted to take a photo of it, but of course by the time I finally got around to it, they had taken it down. But I still think of it. We can all be especially nice to someone today. Who knows, it might just make their day. And maybe even yours.

01 July 2008

putting it by, part 2

So here we are...six quarts of strawberries left, and not too much more jam can be made. I was actually thinking about doing some strawberry rhubarb jam, but I nixed that idea (not sure why actually- I think it was too hot to turn on the stove? Not sure). I hulled and froze three quarts, just whole. I'm hoping I can use those for baking or smoothies (after we get that blender...) or something else later in the year.

Then, I decided to do some baking (for freezing). My mom has the world's best strawberry bread recipe. Seriously, I love it. I tried it a few years ago after I first met Jared, and used my trusty flax/water egg replacement method and, um, it sucked. It fell apart and was just kind of gross. I think the four eggs in this recipe are really serving a purpose here. But, being the optimist that I am, I thought I'd try it again. No dice. I think this was a little better, but not good enough to share with you all. It tastes good, but totally sunk after I took it out of the oven. I think it's too wet. Anyways, I'm working on that recipe and maybe can share it with you soon.

In the meantime, I have another one for you. I think I might have mentioned earlier in the spring trying to make some rhubarb muffins that were a flop (are we seeing a theme here?). They tasted good, but fell apart (again, theme?). Well, I think I've actually been successful in perfecting this recipe. I got some good feedback from the office yesterday, but I really love to know what you think if you try these. I'm kind of new at this whole recipe creating thing and would definitely love some ideas.

Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
This recipe would work best, I think, with fresh (and local) strawberries and rhubarb, but I'm sure would be fine with frozen fruit as well (I'll report back in January when I thaw out some of my strawberries and rhubarb!). Also, I don't like things too sweet, and these definitely are not very sweet. If you want them to be sweeter, increase the maple syrup to 1/2 cup, and add a couple extra tablespoons of flour to balance out the wetness. I haven't tried this yet, but will let you know if I do.

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup rhubarb (washed and chopped into pieces about 1/2")
2 cups strawberries (sliced)
1/2 cups melted non-dairy margarine
1 tbl ground flax seed
1/2 cup oatmilk (soymilk would be fine here, we just drink oatmilk)
1/3 cup maple syrup.
1 tsp orange extract

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin. In a medium sized bowl, mix together wet ingredients. It's good to do the wet first so that the flax seeds have time to get a little "gelatinized." In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour wet into dry. Mix gently, just until ingredients are combined (don't overmix). Fill up greased muffin tin. Bake 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool about 5-10 minutes before transferring from the muffin tin to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before eating.

So there you have it! Seriously, if any of you try this I'd love to hear what you think. Enjoy! (also, for those of you keeping track, I still have one quart of strawberries that I'm eating. Otherwise I've used them all up!)

putting it by

As if I didn't have enough to do, I decided to get up early on Saturday morning, head down to the farmer's market and pick up a flat of strawberries. Let's review. Do you all know how much is in a flat of strawberries? Twelve quarts. Yes, twelve. You probably knew that. And of course, I knew that too when I looked what I was spending my $50 on. But with the hustle and bustle of all the shoppers and the nice kid getting ready to carry them over to my car (I refused, feeling bad for him that I had parked kind of far away in an effort to avoid the parking panic attack I had suffered there the last time- I swear I would have biked if I could have figured out a way to carry that flat of strawberries on two wheels), well, I just went for it.

Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten the similar situation I was in back in October, when the nice lady at the apple orchard sold me a whole bushel of apples for the price of the half-bushel I had intended to buy (for the record, I'm totally doing that again...don't tell Jared). Anyways. This is how I spent my weekend. Hunched over quart after quart of strawberries. And it was lovely. I've been eating sliced fresh berries over granola and yogurt for breakfast for days.

Last fall, after numerous conversations with my boss about preserving food, she bought be this book for our office gift exchange. I was so excited! For the record, this book is amazing. It's got tons of information about preserving and recipes, I would highly recommend it if you're at all interested in any kind of preserving. I have a feeling it's going to be my bible for the next few months. So, as soon as me and the strawberries got in the door, I broke it out and began looking at the recipes. For some unknown reason, I've developed an aversion to pectin. I'm not sure why or where this came from. Probably because it just seems unnatural to me (even though I'm sure it isn't) and the first jam recipe I ever tried last summer didn't have any, so I just assumed that you really didn't need it. (And you will certainly never catch me putting strawberry flavored jell-o in my jam as many recipes instruct!)

The recipe in Putting Food By is simple enough: 4 cups crushed strawberries to 4 cups sugar. Done. Seriously that's it. It's actually in the section entitled "with old-style use of sugar." I think that means no pectin. Anyways, all you do is put the berries in a big pot, add the sugar, bring to a boil over medium high heat, then simmer until it's thickened. That last stage is where I got a little tripped up. I think I didn't let it get thick enough, because it's looking a little sauce-y in those jars. But the half full jar that's in my fridge has thickened a little more from the cold, so I'm not too concerned. I cooked it for about 10-15 minutes, and I guess I would recommend more like 25-30 minutes. Oh well, it still tastes darn good. Then, you remove it from the heat, and pour into prepared canning jars, with 1/4 inch of headroom, and use the boiling water bath method to properly seal the jars (about 5 minutes). This recipe makes about five 1/2 pint jars of jam (I doubled it and have ten jars of jam).

After making the jam, however, I was still left with, ahem, 10 quarts of strawberries. So, on to whole strawberry preserves we went. This recipe came from the same book and again, was pretty simple. Wash and hull berries (I had to google "hulling strawberries," I know I'm a city kid!), mix with sugar using 1/2-1 cup sugar for every 4 cups strawberries. Spread berries and sugar on a shallow sheet pan and let it sit for 2-4 hours. I did about 2 1/2 hours and it might have gotten a little more syrup-y the longer I let it sit. Cover if necessary. Pour the mixture into a large pot and simmer for about 5 minutes, until syrup-y. Ladle strawberries into prepared jars, and fill with syrup. It says to "have some boiling Thin Syrup on hand if there's not enough juice for packing" and, um, I have no idea what boiling thin syrup is, so I didn't bother. I had just enough juice for packing, so luckily this was not an issue. Leave 1/2 inch headroom in jars and process using the boiling water bath (10 minutes for pint jars, 15 minutes for quart jars). I used about 16 cups of strawberries (4 more quarts for those of you keeping track) and about 3 1/2 cups of sugar. This made a little more than five 1/2 quart jars of preserves.

So there you have it. I have a lot of more philosophical thoughts on preserving (similar to something Amanda wrote about recently), but I'm feeling like this post is getting a bit long, so I'll write about that another time. I'll be back tomorrow with part two of the great strawberry massacre of 2008 (because after the preserves, I still had six more quarts to deal with...). Also, I ate the first raspberry of the season yesterday, so it looks like we're heading straight into the next preserving project!