Saturday, December 31, 2011

Menu for a New Year's Eve supper

Bread, cheeses olives
Salad with citrus, beets and Parmesan
Wilted beet greens
Pears poached in Traminette
with brown sugar cinnamon ice cream

Friday, December 30, 2011

Snapshots of a Very Merry Christmas

This Christmas I was fortunate to host dinner at my house (first time ever - yay!). Our Christmas was a perfect balance of cheer and relaxation. Here are some some snapshots of our celebrations. Wishing you all a very happy and safe new year!

Rosemary wreath

Vase of spruce branches from the backyard

Me, cooking

Yummy spices!

Cabbage harvested from the backyard

Table and hearth

Me and my best buddy, Rowan

Family members hard at work

Cooking with Mom

Brown paper packages tied up with string

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holy Mother!

When you get a kombucha mother of your very own for Christmas, you realize what lucky food nerds you and your friends really are.  Matt and Sallie made this batch and its accompanying mushroom, and now it is in my care.
Here is what Matt says about the care and feeding of my new creature.  He has been getting to know this SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) for quite some time.

Hey girl!  I'm glad you are getting exited about this brewing.  If we are right about about the benefits, it is well worth drinking it every day, and even if it's merely tasty that's good too.  Frankly though, I don't think humans would have bothered keeping it alive for 3000 years if it was a hoax.  It is like a sourdough starter in that it is derived from elements in the environment but to keep it in a form usable to us we have to husband it and keep it somewhat carefully to keep it alive. Check out "Kombucha: the Miracle Fungus"  by Harald Tietze, he points out that fact, among many other interesting things.  One is that Kombucha is actually considered a lichen, a symbiotic combination between fungus and blue green algae, which have been recently discovered to be not algae but single celled bacteria- one of the earliest forms of life on this planet.  So, we probably share considerable DNA with Kombucha!
So the basics:   Brew tea and add sugar.  Generally, 3/4 to 1 cup sugar to each gallon of tea.  Most people say to use simple granulated white sugar, the cheaper the better.  A lot of people that would never use it for food use it in kombucha because it is so transformed in the process that they are not worried about the organicness or whatever.  Also, you can theoretically use any natural sweetener but some work better than others.  There is some controversy about using honey.  A lot of people say it doesn't work, but maybe that's because of introducing wild yeast and such which might change the balance of the kombucha strain.  I have used it and it seems to work fine.  Expensive though and hard to judge what would be the equivalent of a cup of table sugar.  It seems to be organic cane sugar is probably the best if you can find a bulk cheap one.    If you use honey, don't use it every cycle.
The tea is also simple but complicated.  Black tea works fastest and has the richest flavor.  Green by itself will work, but tends to be astringent, light and slow to ferment.  My favorite mix is 2/3 Irish Breakfast and 1/3 Green.  I usually use about 6-10 bags per gallon depending on how dark I want it.  So boil the water, turn it off, add the tea, let steep and cool for an hour with the cover on, then add the sugar, cover, swirl and leave overnight to cool.  Do not add ice to cool as there is bacteria in your freezer (gasp)!  Then, in the morning you take you your SCOBY out of the pitcher or jar with clean hands and put it in a clean bowl with some of the liquid from the last batch (it can sit in the fridge like that with some saran wrap on it for many weeks with no problem.  Empty the gunky stuff from the bottom that you didn't want to drink and rinse the vessel.  Best not to use soap, but if necessary just make sure it is completely rinsed.  Never use anti-bacterial soap in the vessel or on your hands when prepping, if at all possible.  The scoby is very hardy, but you could damage it a little.  Pour the sweet tea, cooled off to below 80 degrees, into your vessel then carefully place the scoby on top so it floats. It may not want to float right away, especially if the room is cold and the scoby came out of the fridge.  If that's the case just let it be.  You want it to be as unwrinkled as possible as the layering effect is strongest once the  scoby is flat and tough and smooth.  If it gets all wrinkled (or folded in quarters as yours was) you can try to stretch it out, tear it in half or just leave it and eventually it will form a new top layer that is more smooth.  This will happen if you take a scoby out of a bigger vessel and put it in a smaller one.  It is fine, will still work the same, but essentially the thing breathes and it seems to thrive on surface area, plus it does best if the whole surface of the liquid is covered.  As you experiment with different vessels you will see how the ratio of the surface area to the volume of liquid effects the brewing.  The higher the ratio (i.e. the larger the surface of the vessel) the faster it will brew, but the flavor may be best when brewed a little slower than full-steam ahead.  Other factors of the speed of brewing are air temperature, temp. of what the vessel is resting on, season, health and balance of scoby, amount and type of sweetener, type of tea...yikes! Really, though, you can't go wrong.  Just expiriment, drink it at all stages so you know what's going on, and enjoy! 
Cheers to your health my friend!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Possible Urban Homestead??

Greetings readers.... I'm not making a habit of this, but we've been contacted by a reader who has put their home up for sale and would love to see it go to someone who would appreciate the edible perennials and established vegetable gardens.

Richmond, VA home for sale, near Bellevue (Northside), a two-story arts-and-crafts style house on 1/3 acre (three parcels all together). Home is fully renovated, including refinished hardwood floors, bright and charming. The yard has lots of perennial edibles: grape trellises, dwarf apple and cherry trees, elderberry, asparagus, and rhubarb, plus perennial herbs. There are also several raised beds for annuals. $125,000. Contact Anna at for more info.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Oysters

Tradition and food are intertwined. I know for a lot of folks oyster stew on Christmas or Christmas Eve is a long standing (and to some kids, a highly contested) tradition.

Different theories abound about why oyster love swells this time of year. Some say oysters are better for consumption in the colder months when bacteria levels are lower while some claim it's because spawning season slows down in the colder months. And we've all heard that business about months with R's in them. I say for whatever reason, 'tis the season for this beloved bivalve.

Growing up, Christmas at my house was always celebrated with a nice meal, but oysters were only consumed raw on the half shell at the beach. We've never had them on our holiday menu until quite recently. In the past few years Ned and I have adopted this tradition of oysters on Christmas simply because we like them. Our choice is to enjoy them slightly steamed right on top of warm coals in the fireplace instead of the more traditional stew, but never the less, it seems like a nice tradition to adopt.

This idea is made even more alluring because living in Richmond it's accessible, our choice source is Rappahannock River Oysters. This is a family operation, dating back to 1899, growing only the real deal "Crassostrea virginica, the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster."

Word is you can order online from RRO though the end of the day today for Christmas Eve delivery. After that feel feel to order up some oysters for New Years too- they're super with champagne!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe: Curried Winter Squash Soup

Lots of soup coming out of this RVA kitchen these days.  I wasn't feeling well the other day- which means soup was again in order.  I had roasted a butternut squash the day before, and that was a start.  I knew that ginger and cumin were good warming spices, so curried squash seemed like the the answer.  It turned out well- full o' vitamins and chilies to make breathing easier.  Hope you enjoy!

In two TBS oil (I used coconut oil) on low heat
1/2 chopped onion

Add and mix well (couple of minutes):
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup of tomato paste
pinch (or two if you like it hot) of chile peppers
1 tsp of roasted, ground cumin and coriander
2 TBS chopped ginger
1 roasted butternut squash
2 cups broth (or more if you like it thinner)
1 can coconut milk
drizzle of honey

Let simmer 20 minutes or so- and blend with an immersion blender.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Hey y'all, we've been making some changes to our sidebar to make resources accessible and current.  We have also made it easy to connect in many ways!  You can find us on facebook and twitter, you can connect via email (posts go straight to your inbox) or via google connect.  Of course, you can always email us- we love hearing from you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Season of giving

Tis the season for giving and every year I totally procrastinate on this part of the holiday. It's not that I don't feel generous this time of year, it's just that it all starts to feel like a lot of stuff. So it got me to thinking about where I'd really like to put that good earned money.

So of course I thought... give food!
And what better than to give food where it's needed locally?

The result of this idea is in no way a complete list, but I have attempted to come up with some local food based organizations that would benefit from charitable donations or the gift of volunteering this year.

Here are a few to start....

Central Virginia Food Bank

Community Kitchen

Shalom Farms

Also, think about the gift of membership to a local food based organization like Slow Food RVA

Or join a local CSA or Food Club.

And contact your neighborhood churches to learn about how to donate to their Food Pantry.

Please help us expand our list, feel free to comment and propose any other opportunities.

Happy giving!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friends love when friends make food

My friend Ayana consistently inspires me with her kitchen successes.  Today she is sharing one with you and it's not even remotely vegan, so you know I must really love her!

Take it away, Ayana!

So, I have never done this before so please bear with me.
Tis the season, and around my home that means hearty meals, preferably one pot and easy to clean up. It always seems that easy on the surface, but behind the scenes there is simmering and sautéing, tasting (my favorite) and more than likely some substitutions involved. The tasting is in a way… the measuring. I do not measure anymore, and for that matter neither do my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother… and if I have to, be prepared for some disaster to come crawling out of the kitchen, that would be me, and food that just is not quite right, not Ayana. However, I will try my best in order to deliver this recipe.

Back to my season… well the oven blew up just as I took out my Thanksgiving turkey, I mean immediately after sitting my turkey down there were fireworks. So needless to say, everything for the next few weeks is stove-top (not the dressing but the cooking style). I had a bag of shrimp that I had been saving for the Christmas gumbo, but I figured I might as well enjoy anything at this point – especially if it cooks fast!

During this season, it is always Southern and Cajun/Creole cooking for me! I figure it will keep my husband happy through the New Year, and then he is stuck for another year! Just kidding!

Anyhow, back to my brainstorm: Shrimp + Cajun/Creole = Shrimp Étouffe (I have always been told that I had an aptitude for math).


Veggies –
The Trinity: Onion, Bell Pepper and Celery. The ratio is about 1 : ½ : 3 ribs
Garlic: 5 cloves (adjust for your taste, I typically use a bit more)
Pureed Tomatoes: 3 small (I had the last of the season’s vine ripened on hand – luck of the draw!)

Fat –
Butter and Olive oil, about equal parts at 3 – 4 tbls. each.

Protein –
1 lb. of Shrimp (preferably shell-ON)

Flour – Amount equal to the fat used (ex. 6 tablespoons for 6 tablespoons)
Seasoning – Ok, so I mix up huge batches of my own seasoning and use it on everything. This is also what I used to flavor the dish. However, you cannot go wrong with:
1 Bay Leaf
Adobo (sin pimiento/without pepper)
Paprika and
A dash of Old Bay

Tips and Tricks:
The Trinity - This is something that I keep in the freezer and just scoop out what I need. I also use the entire piece of celery up to the leaves.
The Fat - I am not known for always keeping butter on hand, margarine will do just fine, however simmer it for a few minutes so as to remove as much of the water from it as possible so that we get a nice sauté going. For the richest and most delicious guilty pleasure... use Ghee all the way!
Shrimp - Now, when in Rome… typically when in New Orleans or having a Big Easy affair I use crawfish but this is equally tantalizing using shrimp, it just takes a little more umph to pack a punch of flavor. This is why I buy shrimp with the shell on, after peeling the shrimp boil the shells for a shrimp/seafood stock for an extra wow (I also freeze the uncooked shells when not needed). Use your seasoning in the boil as well and just drain through a mesh/other colander and reserve the hot stock on the side for later.

Let's begin:
1. Start with the fat (I just like calling it that instead of oil). Place in a sauté pan and get it hot, then throw in your trinity and season to taste. Sautee until tender then add your garlic.
2. When all that good stuff is smelling good, begin sprinkling the flour in about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to stir until everything is incorporated and you will keep stirring for about 5 - 10 minutes. You want the color tan, but no darker than peanut butter (or you will have to begin again or just make Gumbo)... Ta da - you have made Roux! See that was not hard.
3. Hopefully you have a seafood/shrimp broth from the tips I gave you. If not a vegetable or chicken will do well (reduced sodium). Begin to stream in the hot/warm broth, it just goes easier if it is hot /warm already.
4. Add your pureed tomatoes and your bay leaf and let this simmer until the sauce has thickened (~15-20 minutes), the longer the better but we have already taken some steps to cut down on cook time.. (I like it to at least be at the consistency that if you dip it/stir your sauce  with a clean spoon and take it out, it should still cover the back the spoon. You should be able to run your fingertip down the spoon and the sauce will stay separated on the spoon).
5. Time to add the shrimp, and do not forget to season them! *In order to make your shrimp curl, cut them lengthwise while shelling and cleaning. Let the dish simmer until the shrimp curls (a few minutes) and it is done. Do not overcook the shrimp.
Remove the bay leaf before serving. Garnish with fresh cut parsley (which I forgot for the picture) and enjoy over rice. My favorite: Mahatma Jasmine... the buttery flavor just adds another level of depth that long-grain just does not do for me.

Thanks Ayana!  Anyone else working hard to being hometown flavors to their house this holiday?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Recipe: Tomato Bisque

Here is an easy, rich recipe you can put together with items that might already be in your larder.  Served with toasted cheese and chutney sandwiches (my new favorite), it makes a warm supper for cold evenings.

Tomato Bisque

1 TBS Butter
Saute on medium heat until translucent:
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 quart canned tomatoes
1/2 cup of red wine
pinch of italian herbs, salt and pepper

Let simmer for about 5 minutes

(Optional) Add:
1 cup of broth 

Simmer (do not boil) for another 10 minutes

Puree with immersion blender

1/2 cup of heavy cream

Warm through, and enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Frog Bottom CSA- sign up early and get 2 weeks free!

Missing tomatoes and squash and eggplant yet?  Well, it is time to think about where you can get some when they come 'round again!

Photos courtesy of Frog Bottom Farm

Frog Bottom Farm will offer three types of CSA for 2012!
  • Regular vegetable shares (full and half;) -- get two weeks of your share FREE if you sign up by December 31
  • a limited number of prepaid shares which can be used toward anything they sell (produce, eggs, pork) at any of the market pickups
  • egg shares (choose from a dozen or half dozen per week during the regular CSA season)
The Frog Bottom CSA runs from June through Thanksgiving, and the diverse selection of produce is always beautiful. Pickup sites are available all over town.

One of the other wonderful things about Frog Bottom is that Lisa and Ali host visits to their lovely Pamplin farm during the season, so you can see where your food begins and how it grows. 

Joining a CSA is a wonderful way to eat well, to support your local farmers, and to join a community.   You know we are big fans of all that!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Virginia Food Summit in Charlottesville

Just a quick post to let you all know that the 2nd Virginia Food Security Summit is going on today in Charlottesville.  The Virginia Food System Council (the 501(c)3 that was formed after the first summit in 2007) has put together a Farm to Table plan (see a draft of the plan here), which looks at the local food system through the rich farming heritage of Virginia, and opportunities provided by the growing demand for local products.  The summit is a chance for growers, policy makers, chefs and consumers to discuss the the plan and its implications for the state.

I am attending, so if there is anything you'd like for me to find out about local food on a state level, you can email me here, and I will certainly try.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Garden 2011- 2012

The median garden is in full swing with late fall/ early winter veggies.

Turkish garlic planted in mid- October

Red Swiss Chard, volunteer carrots and Red Russian Kale

Red Russian Kale with a ground cover of Cilantro

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday cooking is pretty dope

We were so disappointed when we had to cancel Thanksgiving dinner out of town because of a sick baby (she's all better now).  But, it gave us so much time to play in the kitchen.  Which was awesome . . . but has resulted (a bit unfortunately) in so much food that it feels like we are still eating Thanksgiving dinner a week later.
radishes, brussel sprouts, greens, turnips . . . oh my!

Not that I'm really complaining, although it has jumpstarted my need for a good exercise routine (do late night sit-ups count as a routine?).

The biggest excitement of the whole holiday weekend is that I made a lasagna and it involved making tofu ricotta!  So deceptively easy and yet, I feel so fancy having done it!  Check it out:
I made that!!  I made that!  And it tastes pretty grand!

Like that crack in my plate above?  I promise that I'm working on updating my "food showcasing tools" i.e., plates!  In fact, as part of that goal and my goal to do my holiday shopping locally, I am heading out to purchase some locally-made pottery this weekend.  My buddy Alex made pretty much every nice serving piece I have and I am heading out to his Tree Hill Pottery sale this weekend to get me some more!  Come check it out if you can.  It's a great time and you get to see a really cool kiln (how many times have you heard that?)!

Tree Hill Winter Pottery Sale
6765 Osborne Turnpike
Richmond, VA 23231
Saturday and Sunday (12/3-12/4) from 10-5

And how about the rest of you?  Did anyone else make something they were particularly proud of for Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Super foodie paradise: Abingdon, VA

Until this weekend, I had no idea that Abingdon, Virginia was such a foodie paradise- my version of a foodie paradise anyway. I am so inspired by the work going on there, that I have to recount to you the most perfect (and unbelievably packed) day, a.k.a. last Saturday.

Brother Al and his lady Miranda were on the east coast for Thanksgiving. They traditionally come to Abingdon to visit Miranda's parents and I could not pass up the chance to see them! So I hightailed it down for Thanksgiving, arriving just in time for the cooking festivities.

Now, Thanksgiving was great- such wonderful food and company. (I even got to fulfill one of my nerdiest foodie dreams- to try Susan Stamburg's cranberry relish!) But, lest this winds up being a tale a la Alice's Restaurant, I need to jump ahead and tell you about what happened on Saturday.

The day began with a trip to the Abingdon Farmer's Market, which was surprisingly busy for the weekend after the eating marathon (or was that just us?) I walked away with a couple of bottles of viognier from Abingdon Vineyard and Winery, a local food guide, and a market cookbook.

The folks at Moyer Family Farm showed off the largest radishes I'd ever seen- a hardy black variety and one that looks like a heart!

We also ran into ladies from Healthy Families ~Healthy Farms who generously talked with me about their project getting fresh food to food pantries- something I hope to work on in RVA next year.

When we left the market, we headed over to the Abingdon Olive Oil Company, where we were free to taste as many oils from all over the world as we wanted- plus flavored vinegars! The staff answered all of our novice questions with such grace. After much internal wrestling, I wound up with a hojiblanca olive oil from Spain and an 18 year old balsamic vinegar. I haven't bought balsamic vinegar in years, but this was sweet and thick, much more interesting than I remembered. We felt like it would be fantastic on ice cream- that is how thick and sweet it is!

Alex and Miranda's mom, Judith, outside of the Abingdon Olive Oil Company.

Then, of course, it was time to eat again. And you know what restaurant is right outside of Abingdon? Barbara Kingsolver's family restaurant, the Harvest Table. That's right...

Alex and Miranda outside of the Harvest Table.

What a warm place! The Harvest Table calls itself 'the most dedicated farm to table restaurant in Southwestern Virginia'. With most ingredients sourced locally, they keep to a very simple menu, sandwiches and pizza for lunch, and seasonal specials for supper.

When faced with the option of pizza or no pizza, I always go with pizza...

Yes, that is a glass of Barboursville Rosé beside this gorgeous salad/ pizza combo. So perfect!

We had heard that Tony Flaccavento was planting garlic, and after we finished eating, we headed over to his farm to see if we could help. Yes, I was wearing a dress and had already had my fair share of rosé, but I have probably gardened in fancier shape than that, so I was in. Turns out, Tony was done planting, which we really didn't mind because he was then able to talk with us about his good work.

Tony founded Appalachian Sustainable Development, (an amazing organization- how does RVA not have something like this?) and is now consulting on food system development all over Virginia. He and his wife Laurel also run Abingdon Organics, a 7 acre certified organic farm, which is where we found him on Saturday. Abingdon Organics is one of the most popular stands at the farmer's market, with individual customers and local chefs alike standing in line for the beauty of his well grown produce. I can see why- Tony's clear vision of what the food system could be is one of the most inspiring I have ever heard. (They take interns btw...)

Alas, we headed home- probably to eat again. Thank goodness for Thanksgiving, and for leftovers, and for kind and adventurous souls. Many, many thanks to Craig and Judith, Alex and Miranda for such an amazing visit. Abingdon, I hope to see you again soon!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Move Over Big Cheese

I love cheese. Maybe too much. No, not too much, but maybe too often. In a honest moment with myself the other day I realized that cheese had become my go-to snack food. I don't make super-cheesy meals, but when I need a quick breakfast or snack...I go for the cheese. And, let's face it, it is usually cheese + a hot/slightly warmed carbohydrate.

What's wrong with cheese as a snack? Nothing. Nothing, I say! Well, except for one thing: giving cheese - or any one food type - so much airtime in my diet isn't best for me. I am missing out on so many other delicious snacks and opportunities for vitamins and nutrients. I am not looking to remove cheese from my diet. Rather, I am trying to reserve this favorite treat for moments when nothing else will do (as opposed to every time my tummy grumbles). So, over the last week I have been searching for and finding cheese-alternatives that pack a similar punch to cheese. It has been fun! I will continue to share under this idea as I discover yummy options, but here are my findings so far.

Example du jour! Roasted Garlic Spread on whole grain bread! Roasted garlic is SO easy. You can prepare and store in the fridge for use through out the week. As we know, garlic is super good for you. But, you don't have to take it from me, the New York Times says so, too. Or how about tahini!? Made from sesame seeds - this paste can offer you a fatty flavor (in a good way) that we get from cheese. Like garlic, tahini is good for you. I like to combine tahini with lemon juice with a touch of salt on salads or sandwiches. Or, try my sister's cabbage chips - nom, nom! She's the photographer of the photo to the left.

There are so many easy go-tos. Avocados with a dash of lime and hot sauce. Freshly ground peanut butter with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of honey. How about crusty bread with olive oil paste? Hmm, how about a bowl of arugula with a simple dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper? I love raw honey with a piece of dark chocolate for a sweet snack.

So, again, cheese will continue to be a part of my life. But, there are a lot of options that are so beautifully simple and, just maybe, even better for me. I will continue to explore, but please let me know if you have a favorite go-to healthy snack!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


It's usually my annual thanksgiving duty to make the apple pie. The tradition started with plain apple and has evolved into something closer to what Erin wrote about earlier this week.

So the whole pie thing started with my Grandmother Mimi- who on thanksgiving morning, ice water at the ready, would patiently wait for me to wake up so she could make the crust. I'd stumble downstairs in my pj's rubbing my eyes and she'd be there waiting for me mise en place at the ready. I’d start in on the apples and we’d watch the parade and she’d teach me all the secrets of pie crust over again every year. The tradition was not lost with her passing, although it has evolved with the addition of sour cream one year and trials with various apple varieties. It always comes back to the old standby recipe from a crusty half charred copy of the original Betty Crocker (it actually has the electrical coil char marks etched into the back) and lately I've thrown in an additional handful of cranberries and ginger as well, decidedly delicious. I can't help but think Mimi would be rather proud of my innovations over the years.

So, in the tradition of a dear friend who spends every week of her year feeling grateful.

This year I'm feeling grateful for the traditions that bring me back to the past.

For the traditions we continue to rewrite as we bring them into the present and the future.

For my husband who knows all the secrets of the pie crust like it's second nature.

For a growing family who will write their own traditions, whether you are ready or not.

And for friendships that inspire us to take charge of our own new traditions.

Hope you are all finding and adapting your own traditions on this day.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friends- giving, with recipes for apple ginger pie and cranberry relish

Sunday was Friends- giving, a tradition started and headed up by our dear friend Anne. She makes the turkey, and we bring the sides. It is a grand old time.

photo by Casey Freeman

I made my favorite fresh cranberry relish, a ginger apple pie and a pumpkin praline pie. That's a lotta pie!

Fresh Cranberry Relish
1 6 oz container of fresh cranberries
1 apple, peeled and cored
zest and juice of 1 orange
pinch of salt

Blend in a food processor until it is the consistency you like.

Ginger Apple Pie

Peel and core about 5 cups of apples. Add 2 TBS shredded fresh ginger, and 3 TBS butter (in pieces). Sprinkle 3 TBS of white sugar and a pinch of salt, a dash of vanilla and stir. Pour on top of unbaked pie crust.

For the topping, combine, 1 1/2 cups of almond meal, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 3 TBS butter and a dash of nutmeg. Blend with your hands or with a mixer, so that the butter is well incorporated. It will be very crumbly.

Sprinkle topping on apples, and bake at 350 until apples are soft, and edges of crust are golden.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Frame Out the Cold

Our two rear raised beds covered with Matt's movable cold frames

If your looking to extend your growing season, now is the time to install cold frames in your growing area.  Often used as a separate, permanent structure to start plants the cold frame can instead be incorporated into your garden space.  Hoops made of PVC and covered with opaque plastic are a common solution.  The opaque plastic lets light in, and traps heat without cooking your plants, unless the weather warms to the upper sixties or so.  Here's an idea my husband came up with on the fly for  cold frames that allow super easy access and venting.  Some years ago he constructed two movable cold frames that we can switch between our four raised beds from year to year with our crop rotation or we can break them down and store them for the summer.. 
The diagonal 2X2 shown at front of the raised bed above is actually the resting position of the swinging leg that holds the lid open.
This past year they covered the two left beds, and we used frost fabric later in the season to help start quick crops like radishes.  Each cold frame started as four separate raised sides with hardware cloth that Matt made to keep the rabbits out.  Our raised beds are 4X8, so there are two 16" tall  4 foot long sides and two 8 foot long sides for each.  These are attached, and removed from the raised beds with a screw gun. To make the cold frame   He made an  extension that screws into the top of  the long back side of each.The hinged top lifts easily and props itself up with swinging legs attached to each end.  These can rest on the ground to let in a little cool air,  atop the sides for working in the beds, or flipped all the way over for very warm day's with too much wind to leave them propped up.

Once the weather warms enough we remove the top, but can leave the plastic covered sides up for a while to help keep the soil temperatures up, and  flea beetles etc down.         Yesterday we took advantage of the nice weather to go out and plant our Swiss Chard inside the cold frame and our shallots in the space our frame was last season.  It's still not too late for this season, or you can use the quite of the winter season to plan one  for early spring.  The frame will allow you to start planting as early as March.  Not into do-it-yourself?  You can contact Matt at The Living Wood Workshop for help. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holy Napa Cabbage, Batman!

Look what my husband harvested from the garden this week!
Anyone have any ideas for a Thanksgiving dish with lovely Napa Cabbage?!

Seitan - a vegan protein for Thanksgiving or any occasion

A recipe for a vegetarian 'turkey' option from my sweet brother Alex, who is not only making me a faux turkey for Thanksgiving, sent on the recipe and recommendations for those of you who will have vegetarians at your table. Thanks, Al!
I am making a Seitan dish for our favorite Richmond-Food-Collective-organizer-who-is-named-Erin when she comes up to Thanksgiving this year. Seitan is not only a great "meat substitute" but a delicious, versatile protein dish on it's own. And it's easy and cheap to make and stores in the fridge for quick use in many different dishes.

One quick note - Seitan is pretty much 100% wheat gluten. So if you're on a gluten-free diet, this is about as far from that as you could go. But for everyone else, it's a nice, healthy, fun protein that can cook up quickly to go in many dishes. I use the recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen.
Image credit - Utopian Kitchen

Setian starts life as wheat gluten mixed with other flavoring ingredients - you mix it all together into almost a dough. I use my KitchenAid with the dough hook. Then, you simmer this dough in a broth and voila - seitan! It takes maybe an hour and this part is a great weekend activity.

But here's where it gets fun. You can then store the seitan in the cooled broth in your fridge and then grab it out to stir fry, grill, saute, or cook in any number of ways. So, make up a big batch of seitan on the weekend, and then during the week, cook it anytime in just about any recipe. After you've made the broth simmered seitan, it's fully cooked and can be then used quickly anytime in just about any dish.

Got a recipe a friend sent that calls for beef? Use your seitan! Want to stir fry some veggies in your fridge before they go bad? Use your seitan! Want to make vegan shish-kabobs for the grill? You know - seitan! It's a versatile protein that cooks well in sauces and fries up nicely and is almost impossible to overcook or dry out.

I'm going to try this out for Thanksgiving this year. I plan to pan fry up some seitan to brown up the edges and give it some crispy delicious exterior with a soft and moist interior. Will go great with mashed potatoes and stuffing. Yum!