30 August 2010

a summer trip: part one

the first day of our trip took us across wisconsin, through the upper peninsula of michigan, into canada and across quite a ways.  it was definitely the longest driving day of the whole trip- starting at 6:30am and ending around 11:00pm or so.  we didn't mean to drive that far, it just kind of happened. 

we had gotten a head start of a few hours on sunday night, so monday morning we got moving early.  we stopped at a gas station in wisconsin that doubled as a restaurant and had a row of gambling machines complete with an ancient gentleman who was already parked at one of them with a stack of dollar bills at 8:00am.  

we made another stop at a rest area on lake michigan so i could dip my toes in a new great lake (i had a big goal of touching four on this trip, but only managed to get my feet into two of them).  i was really excited about trying a "pastie" while we were in the UP (after i figured out that it was not, in fact, "pastry" misspelled), until i got inside and realized what they were.  i came out with a bag of local cheese curds instead.  

driving through the UP was beautiful, i don't know if it was all in my head, but i really felt like we were way up there.  that feeling of being so very far north on the globe.  vast. open. desolate.  farmland.  (i was driving that afternoon, so no photos!)  

moving across canada was quite similar, with the lovely addition of driving alongside the train tracks.  loads of train cars and semis filled with logs.  field upon field of hay bales and cows and horses.  and the trees were oh so tall.  

i already want to go back and take it even slower.

{more photos in my summer roadtrip flickrset}

26 August 2010

a summer trip

We've just arrived home from our big summer vacation and I'm already feeling nostalgic for the road.  I took five rolls of film and a handful of polaroids and I feel like there was so much more I didn't capture.  I'm still settling in (and scanning film) and trying to enjoy the last bits of summer while also being really excited about the onset of fall.  

More soon, friends.  I've missed you.

11 August 2010

a perfect summer meal

It's been so freaking hot here, I can hardly stand to cook anything.  A few weeks ago, though, I finally got around to making the kale chips that so many folks have been talking about forever.  I used red kale and followed this recipe, recommended by Claire.  The only note I'd make about the recipe is that there's no need for the parchment paper- luckily I just threw it into my compost.  Sadly, neither Jared nor either of my officemates liked them.  Luckily I did...more for me!  I think I'll try them again with regular green or dinosaur kale, the red kale is much thinner and made for a super flaky chip.  They were the perfect addition to a simple meal of salad and roasted potatoes.  Top it off with a glass of herbal iced tea, and you've got yourself a delicious balanced meal.

What's your favorite summer meal?

10 August 2010

preserving someone else's harvest

Well folks, it's that time of year again. Time to preserve the harvest for the colder months.  Of course, I'm not having much of a harvest to preserve.  I was really hopeful that my 100 green and purple string bean plants would produce enough beans to make at least a few jars of delicious dilly beans, but unfortunately the slugs and whatever other disease those poor crispy plants succumbed to had other plans for me.  (Garden FAIL!)

Luckily, we have professional farmers.  I heart professional farmers.  A few weeks ago, I picked up a whole bunch of delicious green beans from our local farmer's market and got busy with some dill, garlic, and fresh jalapeños.  I did manage to incorporate some of my own purple string beans into the bunch, thinking that the purple would be quite pretty.  Sadly, I think as soon as I poured the hot brine over them, the purpleness disappeared.  Oh well!

I followed the recipe in Putting Food By for Dilly Green Beans with a few modifications.  I decided to substitute half of the white vinegar with apple cider vinegar.  I'm not quite sure why I decided to do it that way, and I'm not sure how it'll turn out, but we'll see how that affects the flavor.  Also, the recipe made  about 9 pints instead of the predicted 7 pints.  Fine by me.  

Luckily, there were still enough leftover green beans to blanch and freeze 4 pint jars.  Can't wait to use those in stir frys and soups come winter.  

And now, I'm off to make batch #2 of spicy polish dill pickles (which I wrote about last year).  mmmm pickles....  I'm also wondering if I have time to process a half-bushel of Michigan peaches that I saw at the coop before we leave for our trip this Sunday.  That might be pushing it though, huh?  

What's your favorite way to preserve the harvest these days?

Dilly Green Beans
adapted from Putting Food By
Yield: approximately 9 pints

4 lbs fresh whole green beans
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
5 cups water
1/2 cup less 1 Tbl pickling salt (you can use kosher salt ground up if you can't find pickling salt)

For each jar:
1 whole fresh jalapeño
1 fresh dill head
1 fresh whole clove garlic

Wash beans and trim the ends to fit the jars you're using.  You should leave 1 inch headroom in the jars, so take that into consideration when trimming the beans.  Sterilize 9 pint jars and lids according to manufacturer's instructions.  In each jar, place 1 fresh jalapeño, 1 fresh dill head, and 1 fresh whole clove garlic.  Pack beans into jars, leaving 1 inch headroom.  

Heat vinegar, water, and salt until just boiling.  Pour brine over beans, filling each jar to 1/2 inch from the top.  Run a plastic knife or spatula around the edge of each jar to release air bubbles.  Wipe rims and threads of jars and screw on tops.  Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool fully.  Wait at least two weeks to eat for beans to develop flavor.  

05 August 2010

notes for friday

Hey everyone!
Just a couple of notes for this fine Friday...

::You might have noticed a few small changes around here.  I've been tweaking the layout a little bit here and there, just time for a change, you know?  The biggest addition is a few extra pages!  I've added a recipe index where you can find all the recipes I've ever posted on this blog!  This is something I've wanted to do for a long time and am really psyched about it!  It also made me realize how super duper heavy on the desserts and baked goods I am here, oops!  

I also added an about page.  I wasn't really sure what to write about myself there and thought of doing some FAQs, because I've clearly gotten a bunch of questions over the past four years, but honestly I can't remember them.  So if there's anything you ever wanted to ask me, go right ahead now and maybe I'll add to that page!

Oh yeah, and check out the new set of currently inspiring links (under "right here: right now" over there on the right).  I've finally updated it!

::Jared and I (and Freddie!) are getting ready to leave for a big road trip in a little over a week.  We'll be driving to upstate New York for a friend's wedding, via Canada!  And we'll be camping along the way. I'm so excited, we haven't taken a road trip since we moved here from California (you can read about that trip in my guest post on Abby's blog).  We started making a list of things to bring and that got me to thinking...any suggestions on good road food?  We'll have our usual trail mix, sesame sticks, rice cakes topped with PB, chocolate chips, and raisins, but I figured you all would have some suggestions too!  (Note: they need to be vegan of course).  

I'm also on the lookout for good books on tape for the road- suggestions are welcome.

Thanks friends!

04 August 2010

Focaccia...from the garden

 On Sunday, despite the insane heat and our decision to turn off the AC in our house for a few days (not quite sure why, except for the fact that the noise was starting to drive both of us a little bit batty!), I had a major cooking day. 

I started out in the morning with some zucchini cookies (I am once again swimming in zucchini!), then moved on to double cornbread, then there was some freezing of green beans and corn, and finally....some fresh herbed foccacia.  Man do I love me some focaccia.  I think I first fell in love with it when I was in college, and have pretty much been making it sporadically ever since.  And every time I pull a loaf (is it a loaf?  What do you call that?) out of the oven, I wonder why it's been so long since I last made it.  Especially in the summer when you can season it with fresh herbs straight out of the garden.

Last week, I saw Shari's cinnamon sugar version and I knew I had to add focaccia to my weekend list.  And so I did (though now my mouth is watering for cinnamon sugar and I'm wondering why I didn't make that one...).  I stepped out into the garden and picked some fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  Since I waited until it cooled off in the evening to turn the oven on, My first taste of this batch was the next morning, topped off with a fried egg.  And it was delicious.  

This recipe is the one I've used for years and I think I cut it out of an old issue of Cooking Light or Vegetarian Times.  It's pretty basic, and very very delicious.  Do you have a favorite focaccia recipe?  I'd love to try a new one (especially a sweet one...).

Basic Herbed Focaccia
(adapted from Cooking Light or Vegetarian Times)

1 tsp honey
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbl extra virgin olive oil

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp mixed chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, whatever you like)

1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl mixed chopped fresh herbs
1/2 tsp coarse salt

To prepare sponge: dissolve honey and yeast in warm water in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes.  Gently add 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 2 tbl olive oil and stir until well combined.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.

To prepare dough: gently add 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, along with salt and chopped herbs and stir well.  Mix for 5-6 minutes until dough is elastic.  Cover and let rise for another hour or hour and a half in a warm place.  

Preheat oven to 400F.  Transfer dough to an oiled 15"x10" baking pan, or cookie sheet if you want a free form loaf.  Brush dough with olive oil and top with more chopped herbs and coarse salt.  Cover and let rise for another 30 minutes.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until top is slightly browned.  Enjoy!